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  #511  
Old 10-04-2019, 11:01 AM
cawest cawest is online now
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found this today and thought it might be useful or just as an FYI.


https://defensionem.com/mig-25-foxbat/
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  #512  
Old 02-26-2020, 11:52 PM
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Panther Al Panther Al is offline
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Any news on this picking back up by chance?
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  #513  
Old 02-27-2020, 08:27 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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I will be picking it up over the weekend.
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Old 02-28-2020, 09:35 PM
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that is some good news
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  #515  
Old 02-29-2020, 10:32 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And the story picks back up after a hiatus:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX: 0530 Hours Central War Time, 21 November, 1987:


Major Matt Wiser left his tent and headed to the squadron office. He shot a glance to the east, where the first hint of dawn was starting to break, and the clear skies promised good flying weather. With a storm coming, today and tomorrow would be both maximum effort days, he knew, and that meant the usual of four strikes a day, with more if people started to holler for more CAS than the A-4s, A-7s, or A-10s could handle. Though the squadron had done its share of CAS runs, especially during PRAIRIE FIRE and after, to a man and woman, the aircrews in the 335th preferred to let the folks who lived and breathed CAS handle that, and let them concentrate on their BAI, Counter-air, and when the occasion called for it, hassling with MiGs.

The CO came up to the squadron office and went in. There, Digger, the night-shift SDO was behind the Duty Officer's desk. “Digger,” Guru nodded.

“Boss,” Digger replied. “Saw Doc yesterday.”

“And?”

“He won't clear me until after the stand-down. Swelling's almost gone, but it still hurts when I put some pressure on that ankle,” Digger said.

Guru nodded. Digger had sprained his ankle-good-somehow getting out of the back seat he had in Flossy's bird, and had been grounded since. “Remember that Doc outranks us in everything medical, and he's also just being cautious,” the CO reminded him.

“I know, Boss,” the SDO said. “Still, it's a bit frustrating.”

“Been there, done that,” Guru told him. Then a familiar song came over Digger's radio. “Well, now....I do love this song.”

“Boss?”

“Katrina and the Waves do a pretty good version of We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” Guru grinned. He stayed until the song was done, and Wolfman Jack's voice came over the radio. “XO in?”

Digger looked towards the CO's office. The XO was waiting outside. “Looks like he's waiting for you.”

“All right. When your shift's done, get something to eat, then find your rack. You'll be back flying before you know it.”

“I know, Boss,” Digger said, taking things in stride.

The CO went to his office, and found the Exec waiting. “Mark,” Guru said as he opened the door.

“Boss,” Capt. Mark Ellis replied. “Got a few things for you,” he said as he handed Guru a cup of cocoa.

The CO went to his desk first, checking the IN box. Empty, for once. That won't last long, he knew. “Okay, Mark, lay it on me,” he said as he began to drain the cup.

“Morning reports for both Tenth Air Force and MAG-11,” the XO said, handing the CO a clipboard.

Guru nodded, scanned the papers, then signed them. “That's done. What's next?”

“Our two new guys should be here today,” Ellis reported. “No idea when, though.”

“One of'em isn't a real FNG,” Guru reminded the Exec. “Still, good to have an experienced hand coming, even if he's been at Clark since Day One.”

“It is that,” the XO agreed. “Next up: weather. No change, and the storm's due in day after tomorrow.”

“Today?”

“Temps in the low 60s, VFR all around, winds light and variable.”

“Good,” Guru said as he finished the cup. There was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself!”

The door opened, and a blonde female in a flight suit with captain's bars on the shoulders and a cup in each hand came in. “Morning,” Goalie said. She was Guru's GIB-and girlfriend. “Ready to earn our flight pay today?” Goalie handed the CO a cup of cocoa.

“Always,” Guru said. “What's next, Mark?”

“Chief Ross is running down a couple of spare ejection seats, and Maintenance has a shopping list of other parts,” the XO replied. “He's also looking hard for a K-9 MOPP suit for Buddy.”

“Tell him to keep at it,” replied the CO.

Goalie looked at the Exec with a surprised look on her face. “They make MOPP suits for dogs?”

“They do, for working dogs,” Ellis said.

“And Buddy needs one,” Guru reminded both of them. “Anything else, Mark?”

“Our two new birds are still due in tomorrow,” Ellis said. “Nothing from Frank, and that's it.”

“No complaints?” Guru asked. “That's three days in a row.”

Goalie shook her head. “That won't last,” she said. “He'll find something and the shredder gets a workout again.”

“Right on both,” Guru said. Major Frank Carson's complaints about anything and anyone he viewed as unmilitary were well known to all in the squadron, and to many in MAG-11 as well as at HQ Tenth Air Force. “Now, it might not be too long until I get a message from Tenth AF calling me to Nellis to brief Tenth AF on our little plan for the Su-24s. General Olds told me to bring myself, my GIB-” he nodded at Goalie, then continued, “all our planning material, and proceed by 'fastest available transportation.”

“Which means 512,” Goalie said. It wasn't a question.

“Right on that, and that last phrase is open to the commander's interepetation.”

“Frank will complain, no doubt about it,” Ellis reminded them.

“Screw him,” Guru said.

“He's not my type,” Goalie laughed.

“Don't blame you,” Guru said. “When we do go, Mark, you'll be running the squadron for a couple days. I'll touch base with Dave Gledhill and make sure things run smooth.”

“Thanks, Boss,” the XO said.

“Anytime,” Guru nodded. He looked at the clock on the office wall. “0550. Let's go eat.”


Guru, Goalie, and Ellis went to the Officer's Mess Tent, and they found almost every officer on base-along with the news people, waiting for the Chow Tent to open. A few, like the Ops, Weapons, and Maintenance Officers for the various squadrons rose early, ate at the Early-Bird Breakfast, then got things ready for the flying day, but everyone else was here. Guru found Colonel Brady talking with Ms. Wendt, and she had just found out that, for the month she had been on base, the Marines didn't have any B model Hornets-the combat-capable two seaters, in the two Hornet squadrons. If she wanted a backseat ride with the Marines, she would have another trip in an F-4. “Colonel,” Guru nodded. “And Ms. Wendt.”

“Morning, Major,” Brady said. “I was just telling our guest here that she can't get a two-seat Hornet ride. Nearest place she can do that, I think, is NAS Lemoore.”

“And I was wondering where that was, and when he told me California,” Wendt added, “I was surprised. But a second trip in an F-4 won't be too bad.”

“Lemoore's practically in my stomping grounds,” Guru said. “My hometown's only about an hour and a half's drive from there. As for your trip in Kara's F-4? If we get some clearing on the stand-down day? You get your ride.”

The reporter grinned . “Looking forward to it.”

“Just remember to fill your flight suit pockets with airsickness bags,” Guru laughed. “Took an airman up on an incentive ride a month before the war started, and he didn't follow that advice. He puked all over the rear cockpit-and himself.”

“Just don't make that mistake, Ms. Wendt,” Brady said. The MAG-11 CO looked around, and saw the loathed Major Frank Carson talking with two officers from the air base group. “I see your Major Carson's up with his friends.”

“Don't be fooled by that facade of normality,” Mark Ellis said, jumping in. “Underneath that is a ton of pressure, and sooner or later, he'll pop.”

Wendt nodded. “He as bad as I've heard?”

“He is,” Goalie said.

“I can't show you his file or flight record,” Guru said. “But I can tell you that most of what you've heard is true. And the biggest thing I'm worried about is that if he does get a case of the stupids? Either he gets himself killed or gets other friendlies killed.”

Brady nodded sympathetically. “Major, I don't blame you one bit for that,” he said.

Just then, the Marine Mess Officer came out and flipped the sign from CLOSED to OPEN. “Breakfast is ready, people!”




After breakfast, crews went to their briefing rooms, while the flight leads went to the Ops Office to pick up their mission folders. The CO, naturally, was the first there, and found the Ops Officer waiting. “Don,” Guru nodded. “What's on tap for my bunch this morning?”

Capt. Don Van Loan handed the CO a packet. “Here you go, Boss,” the Ops Officer said cheerfully. “You've got a town down on U.S. 281: Hico. Somebody dropped the bridge over the Bosque River on 281 and there's a good chance there's traffic backed up north and south of the town. They want you to smash up some of that.”

“Or the traffic on the north side's in the town, using our civilians as human shields, and we won't bomb our own people,” Guru pointed out. “Any secondary targets, or do we go after anything that's a target of opportunity?”

Van Loan nodded. “Either one, Boss,” he said. “There's a list of possible secondaries, or you can go for opportunity targets. Armed recon is also authorized. And you do have the RAF for TARCAP.”

Guru opened the packet and found the list. There were several targets that were familiar, and some that weren't. All were either in the East German rear, or that of the Soviet 32nd Army. “Well, if the convoys aren't there, we'll find something,” the CO said. “Thanks, Don. You have a good one, and good luck breaking in Doucette.”

“Thanks, Boss,” Van Loan said, dreading the thought of breaking in Rabbit's replacement.

“Not the only one,” Mark Ellis said as he came in. “At least Cassidy's experienced, even if there's no combat in her log book.”

“Day one excepted,” Guru reminded them both. “Okay, you both have a good one, and I know, Mark doesn't want to be CO, Don doesn't want to be Exec, and we all don't want Kara as Ops.”

The XO laughed. “Four-oh on that, Boss.”

“Thanks,” Guru said. “Okay, a reminder: watch for those basketball-sized tracers. ZSU-30-2 is probably what got the one RAF shoot-down, and if you guys see those tracers, abort! Go for a secondary or opportunity target.”

“Gotcha, Boss,” Ellis said, and Van Loan nodded.

“Good. You all have a good one, and good luck with the newbies,” Guru said. He headed on out, and ran into Major Frank Carson on the way. “Frank,” he nodded politely, even though he loathed the man.

“Major,” Carson nodded in reply.

“Remember everything I told you,” Guru reminded him. “Or do I have to remind you?”

“No reminder is necessary.”

“Good. Keep that in mind,” Guru said, then he headed to his flight's briefing room. When he got there, he found his flight, plus Dave Gledhill's element from the RAF, and the squadron's mascot, who had found himself a comfortable place to lie down and take a nap. “All right, people! We've got our mission.”

“Where to?” Kara asked.

“Hico, and we've been there before. Someone-who they were isn't in the briefing material,” Guru said as he took the maps and photos out of the folder, “hit the U.S. 281 bridge over the Bosque River last night. There's likely traffic backed up in both directions, and it's our job to hit that.”

“Assuming that said traffic isn't in the town, using our own people for shields,” Goalie said.

“That is a logical assumption, and there's a list of possible secondary targets,” said the CO. “All in the East German rear, or the neighboring Soviet 32nd Army to the west.”

“And since we'll be in an Army-level formation's rear, that means SA-4,” Sweaty chimed in. “Nice.”

“The defenses haven't been beefed up,” Guru said, checking the intel sheet. “Two 37-mm batteries, two of ZU-23s, and whatever the convoy has. If we do go for secondaries? All bets are off, though. And if we do run into those damned basketball-sized tracers? We abort, no matter what the target is and go for something else.”

“What's our ordnance load, Boss?” Hoser asked.

“No CBUs this close to a town,” Guru replied. “Twelve Mark-82 Snakeyes, each airplane. Plus the usual air-to-air of four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, full gun, wing tanks, and usual ECM pod for leaders and wingmates.”

“And for us?” Dave Gledhill added, “Four AIM-9Ls, four Sky Flash, two wing tanks, and a SUU-23 gun pod.”

“Which you used yesterday,” said Kara. “Twenty mike-mike is a good way to shred a helo.”

“It is,” Guru said. “Nice work once again,” he added. “Now, ingress.” He had a TPC chart and a JOG map, along with a road map of Texas that showed the highway numbers. “We hit the tankers northwest of Mineral Wells, as usual. Then we go in low, just east of the Brazos in the Nicaraguan sector.”

“Close enough to the river to use it as a nav aid?” Sweaty asked.

“Right you are. Once we clear Glen Rose, then we go down the river proper, all the way to Lake Whitney. Short of the dam, we turn right to two-three-five and head to the town of Fairy. It's ten miles from the target, and that's not just a turn point, it's also our pop-up point.”

“Thirty-five seconds from the target,” KT said. She did the calculations in her head.

“Right on that,” Guru agreed. We go in just high enough to verify that the convoys are there, and if they are, we make our runs and get our asses north. If not, reform and I'll take you to a secondary target.”

“MiGs?” Kara asked. She was looking for a chance at her tenth kill and making double ace.

Guru checked the intel sheet. “Unchanged since yesterday,” he said. “Flankers were active last night, though. They're still at Bergstrom.” He meant Bergstrom AFB near Austin. “MiG-29s are still at Gray AAF at Fort Hood, in case you're wondering.”

“And the Floggers and Fishbeds at Waco,” Hoser nodded.

“They are,” Guru replied. “Bailout areas still unchanged, and so is the weather for the next two days. Then we get a storm coming in, and a stand-down for the better part of the day.”

“To be thankful for,” Preacher said.

“Agreed,” the CO nodded. He noticed an Ops NCO waiting by the door to collect the briefing material. “Anything else?” Heads shook no at that. “All right, let's gear up, because the sky awaits. I'll see you at 512.”

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

“By killing Russians or East Germans?” Guru replied. “A good way to start off the day.”

“Better yet would be kicking Frank out of the squadron.”

“It would. He's laying low, I think, then he's going to go off on his case of the stupids.”

Goalie nodded. “He's going to, and sooner or later, we'll be in a shit storm.”

“Yeah.”


Guru and Goalie left the building, and found Dave Golen and Flossy with their GIBs, and a bonus: the news crew was filming them. “Dave,” Guru said. “Looks like the Fourth Estate's interested in you guys today.”

“They are,” the IDF “Observer” nodded. “Flossy and Jang just happened to be available.” Golen gestured to Ms. Wendt, who was talking with the all-female crew. “And so...”

“And so, we'll be seeing them on the news in a day or two,” Guru finished.

“That's a given, Boss,” 1st Lt. Terry McAuliffe, who was Golen's GIB, said. “Said that just a minute ago.”

“Well...Okay, Dave, where you guys headed?”

“Chalk Mountain. There's a tank-repair facility there,” Golen replied.

“All right, we'll be about a minute's flight time south of there,” said Guru. “You hit MiG trouble, give a holler. We'll be there, and be bringing the Brits.”

“Sounds good to me. If you need help, we're Camaro Flight, and we'll come to the party.”

Guru nodded. “Mustang for us. I'll be listening.”

“So will I,” Golen said. They shook hands on that. “Good luck.”

“You too,” Guru said.

Guru and Goalie then walked to their squadron's dispersal, and found the crews gathered around at the entrance to 512's revetment. “All right, gather around.” It was time for his final instructions.

“Usual on the radio?” Kara asked. That meant call signs between them, while mission code went to AWACS and other interested parties.

“You got it,” Guru said. “Now, we're Mustang Flight, and Dave Golen and Flossy are Camaro. They're going in about a minute's flight time north of us, and if we hit MiG trouble, they'll come to the show. IF they do? We crash Ivan's party.”

The RAF crews had evil-looking grins on their faces. “Sounds good,” Flight Lt. Susan Napier said. She was wingmate to Gledhill and Flight Lt. Paul Jackson.

“It is, Susan, unless it's those Flankers,” Gledhill reminded her.

“Just remember the anti-Flanker drill,” Guru said. That meant getting down low, doing a Doppler Break, and hollering for help from the AWACS, hoping that a “Teenaged” fighter was in the area.

Heads nodded at that. “Always,” Sweaty said.

“Good. Let's get Round One out of the way,” Guru said. “Any other questions?” Heads shook no. “Meet up at ten grand overhead, and it's time to fly. Let's hit it.” He clapped his hands for emphasis.

The crews headed to their aircraft, and Guru and Goalie went into the revetment, where their bird, 512, sat, armed, fueled, and waiting. They found the Crew Chief waiting, and Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley snapped a perfect salute. “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve is ready to go out and kick some more Commie ass.”

Guru and Goalie returned the salute. “Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said. He and Goalie did their usual pre-flight walk-around, then the CO signed for the aircraft. Both mounted the crew ladder and got strapped into their seats, then they went through the prestart checklist.

“Ejection seats?” Goalie asked.

“Armed top and bottom, and check yours,” Guru said. “Once more into the breach, dear friends.”

“Henry V,” Goalie said. “Just as long as we leave out that 'close up the walls with our dead,' crap.”

“Concur,” Guru said. “Arnie?”

“Arnie's up,and so is the INS,” She said, referring to the ARN-101 DMAS and the INS. “Preflight checklist complete and ready for engine start.”

“We are,” Guru said. He gave his Crew Chief a thumbs-up, and Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal. First one, then both, J-79 engines were soon up and running, and as they warmed up, both pilot and GIB noticed Marine F-4s already taxiing to the runway. The jarheads were first out of the gate this morning. Then he called the Tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead with six, 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 four in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Mustang Lead is rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up to Crowley, who waved to the ground crew. The wheel chocks were pulled away, and Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal.

Guru released the brakes, and taxied out of the revetment. After clearing the revetment, Crowley gave another perfect salute, and Guru and Goalie returned it. Guru then taxied out of the dispersal, as the rest of the flight fell in line behind him. He led the flight to Runway 35L, and found three Marine flights-two of F-4s and one of F/A-18s, ahead of his own.

The Marines took their turn, and when the Hornet taxied onto the runway, Guru taxied into the holding area. There, the armorers removed the weapon safeties, making the ordnance “live.” When the Hornets took off, he called the tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

The controller came back right away. “Mustang Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-eight-zero for five.”

“Roger, Tower, and thank you,” Guru replied. He taxied onto the runway, and Kara followed in 520, tucking in right at his Five O'clock. They exchanged thumbs-ups, then a final cockpit check. Everything was ready. “All set?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Ready back here,” Goalie replied.

“Okay,” 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 down and locking his canopy. Goalie did the same, and a quick check showed Kara and Brainiac's canopies down as well. “And let's go.” Guru firewalled the throttles, released the brakes, and 512 thundered down the runway and into the air, with 520 right with them.

Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, followed by the two RAF F-4Js. Once airborne, they met up at FL 100 and headed south for their tanker rendezvous.


Over Central Texas: 0735 Hours Central War Time:


Mustang Flight was headed south, barely a half-mile east of the Brazos River, and just inside the sector of the Nicaraguan II Corps. No one had hit the Nicaraguans this morning, and thus their air-defense people were quiet. No flak, no SAMs, and no MiGs. And that, to the strike crews going in, was always a good thing. The Nicaraguans' enthusiasm for the war had cooled considerably since PRAIRIE FIRE, and it showed in their not shooting at aircraft not striking their forces.

In 512, Guru wondered how long that would last, for sooner or later, the KGB or DGI might force the Nicaraguans to start being more reactive. No matter: they'd pick out another good ingress route, and start using that instead. For now, the Brazos suited their purposes, though the East Germans on the west bank always shot at them, and the Libyans further south did the same.

Now, Mustang Flight was just east of Lake Granbury, and approaching U.S. 377. The bridge over the Brazos was just to the west. They were going in at 450 Feet AGL and doing 500 KIAS.

“Granbury in when?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie replied. She checked her own EW display. “And still clear.”

“For now,” Guru muttered, loud enough for her to hear. “Mr. Mainstay's going to come up sooner or later.”

“Bridge off to the right...now!” Goalie called, and sure enough, the bridge flew past to their right, and though nearly out of range, the East German gunners on the west bank started shooting. The 57-mm flak fell short, as the strike flight headed on south.

“Gunners are awake,” noted Guru. “They're on the ball this morning.”

“No surprise,” Goalie said. She checked her EW display again. “Got something.”

Guru checked his own display. Sure enough, a bright strobe appeared to the south, and the SEARCH warning light was on. “Mr. Mainstay's active.”

“Wish somebody would take those bastards all the way out,” Goalie said. “Dam coming up.” She meant the Lake Granbury Dam.

“Got it,” said Guru as the dam flew past on the right. Again, the East German-manned guns on the west side of the river opened up, while the Nicaraguans stayed quiet. The strike flight easily avoided the flak, and kept on course. “How far to Glen Rose?”

“Twenty seconds,” Goalie advised.

“Roger that!” Guru said as he put 512 into a right turn, cutting across a bend in the river and heading due south. Then he called the AWACS. “Yukon, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

A controller came back to him. “Mustang Lead, Yukon. First threat bearing One-one-zero for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-four-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-eight-zero for sixty-five. Medium, going away. Fourth threat bearing Two-one-zero for seventy. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Yukon. Say bogey dope?”

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

“Copy that,” Guru replied.

The strike flight approached U.S. 67. “Glen Rose Bridge off to the right,” Goalie said.

“Got it,” Guru acknowledged, as the flak came up again from the west side. They flew past the flak, then Guru took the flight right back down the river once clear of the bridge. For they were leaving the Nicaraguan sector and approaching the Libyans' AO.

“Brazospoint Bridge coming up,” Goalie called. “Flak on both sides.” Both the East Germans and the Libyans were shooting.

“I see it,” Guru replied, leading the flight right down the middle of the river, flying over the bridge and threading the flak from both sides. Once clear, a glance to the rear showed the East Germans had stopped shooting, but the Libyans were still at it-as usual. “How long to the 174 Bridge?”

“Twenty-five seconds,” Goalie replied.

“Roger that.” Guru continued his visual scanning, then checked his EW display. Just the Mainstay's radar was showing, but he knew there were fighters to the east and southeast, thanks to AWACS. Then he checked his instruments. Keeping his head on a swivel had been drummed into his head at the RTU at Homestead AFB prewar, and that was one of the reasons he was still alive and flying.

“Bridge coming up,” said Goalie. “Flak's on both sides.”

“Got it,” said Guru as the strike flight approached the bridge. “There's some traffic.”

“Not their turn to die,” Goalie remarked coolly.

“This time,” Guru replied as the flight overflew the bridge, then he went down to 400 Feet AGL as Lake Whitney opened up. “Time to turn?”

“One minute fifteen.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as the strike flight thundered down the lake. A quick glance at the EW display still showed the Mainstay's signal. “Damned Mainstay's still there.”

Goalie shook her head in the back seat. “You'd think somebody by now would've taken them all the way out.”

“You'd think,” Guru said, a tinge of disgust in his voice. Then he called the AWACS. “Yukon, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

The same controller he'd talked to earlier got back to him. “Mustang Lead, Yukon. First threat bearing Zero-four-five for forty. 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-five for sixty-five Medium, closing.”

“Copy, Warlock. Say bogey dope?”

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

“Roger that.”

As the strike flight kept on course, eyes were watching, both friendly and hostile. Some of the former were locals, out for a morning's fishing to hopefully catch some fish to supplement the rations allowed them by the occupiers, while others were inhabitants of several boat-in only campgrounds, and those were Resistance groups. They were glad to see the Air Force making regular appearances, for not only did it signal that there was light at the end of the damned tunnel, but that the front lines weren't that far away. Among the latter, there were Soviet, East German, and Cuban soldiers who were also fishing themselves, for given the quality of their rations, some fresh fish would go to help add to that, while others, in two lakeside towns, were stationed there.

In the town of Lakeside Village, there was an uneasy peace between the locals-and the town was unincorporated, so there were no town officials-and the East German 18th Independent Motor-rifle Regiment. The East Germans had been roughly handled up north, and had been in the town for several weeks, resting and refitting. The Regimental Commander, a Major, knew full well that the local resistance was around, but the absence of activity meant that the underground was laying low and biding its time until the front lines moved closer. To the Major, the resistance wasn't the problem, but his Political Officer and Stasi Security Officer were, along with a PSD officer. All three were insistent on having his men search for “Bandits and Counterrevolutionary Elements”, and there had been nothing to show for it. All the searches did was make the locals angry, and the Major and his deputy both knew that such activities on the part of the occupiers didn't quench any underground, but merely fueled it.

Shaking his head, the Major was more concerned about his command. The Regiment was still in need of APCs-his regiment had given up its remaining BTR-70s, and had only a battalion's worth of BTR-60PBs, while his tank battalion was in good shape, with two companies of T-55AM2Bs, with the horseshoe armor, upgraded engine, Kladivo fire-control system, laser rangefinder, and a few other extras. The tankers were convinced they had a vehicle equal to the M-60A3, but they knew that if they went up against the M-1, or worse, the M-1A1, it was a different matter. The artillery battalion was in fair shape, with a dozen D-30 122-mm howitzers and prime movers, while the reconnaissance and air defense elements were in worse shape, with the recon company the size of a platoon and the air-defense company only having two ZSU-23-4s and no missile vehicles. The Major had inquired about when his replacement vehicles and personnel would arrive, and was told that the naval situation would dictate that. When he inquired further, the Kampfgruppe's Chief of Staff had told him, “It's bad and getting worse.”

With that, the Major got up and left his office in what had been a local real-estate agency before the war, and went outside. What he saw didn't surprise him in the least. Six F-4 Phantoms thundered by as they flew down the lake, and the Major knew that the local civilians would be clapping and cheering. That meant that the propaganda line the Political Officer had been feeding both the men and the local population wasn't worth the paper it was printed on, and it also meant that the front lines would be getting closer when spring came around.


“How long to turn?” Guru asked.

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie said. “Dam coming up.”

“I see it,” Guru said. “No flak yet.”

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

With that, Guru put 512 into a hard right turn. “Coming onto Two-three-five.” He steadied the Phantom on the new course, and the rest of the flight did the same. “Steady on Two-three-five.”

“Copy that,” replied Goalie. Though she was using the INS, she was also keeping up with the navigation the old-fashioned way: with a map and stopwatch. “One and a half minutes to Fairy.”

Guru did the math in his head. Twenty-four miles at this speed. “Got it,” he said, then he kept up his visual scanning. Bypassing Meridian to the north and Clifton to the south, the flight maintained its course. Guru took a quick look at his EW display and scowled beneath his oxygen mask. The Mainstay's strobe was bright as ever. Well...let's make it a little harder. “Flight, Lead. Music on,” he called, turning on his ALQ-119 ECM pod.

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied, and the others did the same.

“Forty-five seconds,” Goalie advised. '

Guru acknowledged the call. “Copy that.”

“Thirty seconds.”

“Flight, Lead. Switches on, and stand by.”

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

“Set 'em up,” Guru told Goalie.

“On it,” she replied, setting up the armament controls so that the bombs would all be released in one pass. “You're set. All in one go.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as Fairy-more a spot on the map than a town, appeared. “Turn point coming.”

“Copy. Turn in five, four, three, two, one, NOW!”

Guru turned right, following F.M. 1602, and gradually climbed as he did so. Not knowing if the advertised targets were there, he decided on the gradual approach. He pulled up, as Goalie scanned the fields along U.S. 281 with binoculars as they approached the town. “Anything?”

“You bet!” Goalie replied. “Convoy backed up along 281, and two more in fields right and left of the highway.”

“Flight, Lead. Multiple targets south of the town. Take your pick, make your runs, and get your asses north,” Guru called the flight, as he pulled up.

“Roger, Lead!” Kara called back.

“All set here,” Goalie said, tightening her straps and getting set. The bomb run was next.

“Then let's go,” Guru said, rolling 512 in onto the bomb run.


In Hico, the East German Major who commanded the garrison-also East German, was cursing whoever had decided to route a large supply convoy through his town the previous night, and though some of the convoy had passed over the U.S. 281 bridge over the North Fork of the Bosque River, most had not-and some had been caught on the bridge when an air strike went in-either F-111s or A-6s, and four well placed laser-guided bombs had dropped the bridge. The area within a ten kilometer radius around the town was his responsibility, and the convoy elements who were stuck south had been directed to into two nearby fields while he notified the Kampfgruppe's Chief of the Rear, and requested engineers be sent to erect a temporary span while the bridge was rebuilt.

Much to his disgust, the engineers, who had been promised to arrive at 0700, had not arrived, and the convoy commander was also getting on his nerves. He was a major like himself, only this one seemed to be dismissive of the possibility of air attack, even though, as the garrison commander felt, a blind man could see it. The convoy elements backed up south of the river were a tempting target, and it was only a matter of time, the Major felt, before someone came to finish what the night strike had started. The convoy had a couple of ZSU-57-2 AA guns, which were equally useful in breaking up ambushes, along with a couple of gun trucks-ZPU-2 14.5-mm guns mounted on the backs of Ural-375 trucks, and soldiers armed with Strela-2 (SA-7) missiles. His own air-defense guns had been hit hard in previous strikes, and only a few individual 23-mm and 37-mm guns remained.

With those happy thoughts in mind, the Major was at his desk at his headquarters in City Hall, thankful that the civilian population was not giving him any problems. He knew the Resistance was laying low, biding its time, and once it was clear the U.S. Army was approaching, then things would get....interesting. He started to examine some papers when he heard shouts, followed by a siren.

“ALARM! AIR ATTACK!”


Guru rolled in on 512's attack run. “Lead's in hot!” He called, and as he came in, Guru spotted trucks parked in fields on both sides of U.S. 281. “We've got targets, both sides of 281, and dealer's choice,” he added. Ignoring the flak that was starting to come up, he selected a group of trucks parked in a field on the west side of 281, and decided they would go away. Your turn, Franz, he thought as the trucks grew larger in the pipper. Guru spotted what looked like a tank transporter with a tank and right there centered it in his pipper. “Steady...Steady...And..And..HACK!” The CO hit his pickle button and pulled up and away, as a dozen Mark-82s came off the racks. He applied power and pulled up and away after weapon release, jinking as he did so. “Lead's off target.”

“Schisse,” the Major muttered. Shit....The Amis are back. He watched from his office window as the anti-aircraft fire started, then ran outside just in time to see Guru's F-4 fly past, and hear the bombs going off. The Major ran back inside as others on the staff were running to the basement, but he went to his office, grabbed his binoculars, and went upstairs to the roof, where several soldiers with Strela shoulder-fired missiles and a ZPU-2 AA gun were busy. Several columns of smoke rose from south of the river, and the Major knew the convoy had been hit. Then the ZPU began firing again, as another aircraft was coming in....


In 512's back seat, Goalie had her neck turned to watch as the bombs landed on target. “SHACK! And we've got secondaries!”

“How many?” Guru asked as he jinked left, then right, then left again, dodging a pair of SA-7s as he did so.

“Several, and we've got a big one.”

“Sounds good to me,” the CO said as he made one last jink, then headed north.


“Two's in hot!” Kara called as she took 520 down on its bomb run. She saw the CO's run, and the secondaries that he left in his wake. She picked out the trucks in the field on the east side of the highway, and came down on them. Kara saw the flak coming up-including at least two SA-7s, and ignored it. Even an SA-7 flying just past 520's left side didn't faze her. Not today, Franz, Kara thought as several trucks-fuelers by the look of them-grew larger in her pipper. “And....And...And.....NOW!” She hit her pickle button, sending her Mark-82s down onto the parked vehicles. Kara then pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as she did. Then she made the call, “Two's off target.”


“Of all the...” the East German Major muttered. He was watching through his binoculars as Kara's F-4 made its run, and saw the bombs going off-as well as the fuel trucks going up in sympathetic detonations. As he watched, the AA gun on the rooftop fired, as did its counterparts, but the tracers fell short, and as for the missiles? Two soldiers fired their Strela missiles, but the missiles failed to guide. Grimacing, the Major turned, and saw his Political Officer there, watching. “Well, Gunter?”

“Comrade Major, you should get to a shelter,” the Party man replied. “It's dangerous out here.”

“Oh, you noticed?” the Major shot back, then he saw the AA gun turn back to the south. More aircraft coming in.


“BULLSEYE!” Brainiac shouted from 520's back seat.

“Good hits?” Kara asked as she jinked to avoid the flak, not even noticing a pair of SA-7s that flew past on the right side of the aircraft. Though some puffs of 57-mm fire below and to her left did catch her eye. Not aimed right, and too low, she thought.

“Some big secondaries,” said Brainiac. “Big and good.”

“I'll take those,” Kara replied as she spotted the smoke trail, then 512 itself. Time to join up with the CO, she knew.


“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called as she came in on her run. As she came in, several undamaged trucks on the west side of the highway caught her attention, and Sweaty selected those as her target. As the trucks grew larger in her pipper, she was hoping they were ammo carriers, though a tank transporter also caught her eye. You'll do, she thought as the flak came up. Ignoring the 23-mm and 37-mm fire, she lined up between the trucks and the tank transporter. “Steady....And...And...Steady.....HACK!” Sweaty hit her pickle button and her twelve Mark-82s came off the racks. Once the ordnance was gone, she pulled up, applied power, and pulled away, jinking all the way to avoid flak and missiles. When she was clear of Hico, she called out, “Three's off.”


“DAMMNT!” Damn it, the Major yelled as Sweaty's plane made its run, and as the bombs went off, several ammunition trucks went off as well. The sympathetic detonations rained shrapnel-and the occasional unexploded shell, down, and then some of the ordnance went up. Cursing at the air force-and where were the “Comrades of the Air” as the Political Officers called their comrades in the Fraternal Socialist Air Forces? The Major saw Sweaty's F-4 make a clean getaway, and to his horror, soldiers on a nearby rooftop fired two Strelas-and one of them exploded in the tube, killing the operator and two nearby soldiers. Stepping away from a missile operator, he watched as the AA gun tracked back south. If three aircraft had come in, there was bound to be a fourth.


“GOOD HITS!” Preacher shouted from Sweaty's back seat. “We've got good secondaries!”

“How good?” Sweaty wanted to know as she jinked right, then left, then right again, dodging some 57-mm fire and even an SA-7 as she did so.

“Big and good! Righteously good!” Replied the ex-seminary student.

“Good enough for me,” Sweaty said as she headed north, picking up the CO's element as she did.


“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he came in on his attack run. He saw the explosions left in Sweaty's wake, and thought, Nothing left here.. He then decided to take the east side as a result, and as he did, he spotted several more fuel trucks east of Highway 281. Selecting those as his target, he lined them up, and as he did, noticed the flak. Hoser ignored it, concentrating on the bomb run. The trucks grew larger in his pipper, and he lined up a pair of tanker-trailers. “And...And...Steady....And...NOW!” Hoser his his pickle button, releasing his dozen Mark-82s, and after the last bomb came off, he pulled up and away, applying power while doing so. He began jinking to throw off the flak gunners and SAM operators, and as he cleared Hico, Hoser called out, “Four off target.”


“Mother of..” the Major muttered as Hoser's plane came off its run. He saw the bombs go off, and the sympathetic explosions in the F-4's wake as several fuel trucks exploded. Grimacing, the Major watched as a soldier tracked the F-4 with his Strela missile launcher, and then there was an explosion. The Major was thrown back by the shock wave, and staggered to his feet, covered in blood. The missile had exploded in its tube, killing the operator and the Political Officer, who had been standing next to the missile operator. This has been a bitch of a morning, the Major thought as he reached for a field phone to summon medics, for several wounded were screaming at the tops of their lungs. And what will the rest of the day bring, he wondered as the Medical Section came on the line. As he was talking to the Medical Officer, two more F-4s thundered past, but dropped no bombs. Were they reconnaissance aircraft? No matter, the Major thought as the door to the roof opened and medical orderlies appeared.


“SHACK!” KT called as Hoser pulled off. “We've got some secondaries!”

“How many?” Hoser asked as he kept jinking. He dodged some 37-mm and 57-mm flak, and a pair of SA-7s-one flying down the left side of the aircraft, the other on the right.

“Several, and they're big!” KT said.

“Their happy day,” Hoser replied as he picked up his element lead. “Sweaty, Hoser on your six.”

In 512, Guru heard that. “That's it.”

“Four in and out,” Goalie confirmed.

“Roger that. One-five and One-six, get your asses down and away.”

“Roger that, Lead,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson replied as the two RAF F-4Js broke off from their TARCAP and headed north to join up.

“Kara?” Guru called his wingmate.

“Right with you, Boss,” she replied.

Guru and Goalie took a look, and 520 was tucked right there with them in Combat Spread. “Got you, and Sweaty?”

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

“Roger that,” Guru said, then he called the AWACS. “Yukon, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

A controller got back to him right away. “Mustang Lead, Yukon, Threat bearing One-zero-five for fifty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-six-five for fifty-five, Medium, going away. Third threat bearing Two-two-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Yukon. Say bogey dope?”

“Mustang, first and second threats are Floggers. Third threats are Fulcrums. Wait one. There is a fourth threat. Bearing Two-four-five for sixty, climbing and closing. Threats are Fishbeds.”

“Mustang Lead copies,” Guru replied. “How long to the Fence?” He asked Goalie.

“Two minutes,” was Goalie's reply.

“Copy,”

The strike flight headed north, threading the boundary between the East German 9th Panzer Division and the 20th MRD, and as they did, drew no fire. Then the AWACS called.

“Mustang Lead, Yukon. Bandits inbound, bearing Two-four-five for forty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Yukon,” Guru replied. “How long to the fence?” He asked Goalie.

“One minute,” she replied as U.S. 377 flew by below.

“Yukon, can you get a welcoming committee onto the bandits?” Guru called the AWACS.

“Roger that. Yukon can do. Brenda One-one, Yukon. Bandits bearing One-eight-two for forty. Medium, closing. Clear to arm, clear to fire. KILL. Repeat: KILL.”

“Brenda Lead copies,” an F-16 flight lead replied. Four F-16Cs turned south and crossed the Fence, fangs out.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie advised.

“Copy,” Guru replied. He had his eyes on a swivel, checking outside, then his EW display. The Mainstay's radar was still there, then another strobe appeared at his Seven O'clock, and the A-A warning light came on. “Got a fighter radar.”

“Brenda Lead has four hits at twelve,” the F-16 lead called out.

“Bandits are Fishbeds,” Yukon advised.

“Copy,” Brenda Lead said. “Let's go get 'em.” Four F-16s charged into the MiG-21s, which were East German. All four went down for no F-16 losses, as Brenda Flight covered the outbound strike flight.

“Time to the Fence?” Guru asked.

“Coming up on the Fence....now.” Goalie said as I-20 appeared. The twin ribbons of freeway marked the front lines for operational purposes, though the actual FLOT was a few miles south.

“Got it,” Guru said as they overflew the Interstate. “Flight, Lead. Music off and IFF on, out.” That meant to turn off their ECM pods and turn on their IFF transponders.

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

Guru acknowledged, then he noticed the EW display. The Mainstay's signal had gone off, and the SEARCH warning light was out. “Mainstay's off the air.”

“For now,” Goalie said.

Mustang Flight climbed to altitude, and joined up with the tankers. The USAF F-4s plugged in with a pair of KC-135s, while the RAF was glad to get service from their own Tristar. The flight then headed back to Sheppard, where they were third in line for the landing pattern, following a 335th flight and two flights of Marine F/A-18s. When it was their turn, the flight came in and landed. As they taxied off the runway and towards their dispersal, the crews popped their canopies, but to the disappointment of those watching, no fingers came up to signal kills.

Those disappointed included the Aussie news crew. “No kills for the CO's flight,” Trevor Scott, the cameraman, observed.

“This time,” Jana Wendt, the correspondent, said. “Maybe the next one.”

The flight taxied into their dispersal, and the individual pilots found their revetments. Guru taxied 512 into its revetment, and after getting the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief, said to Goalie. “First one in the logbook.”

“And three more,” she reminded her pilot.

“Unless someone screams for CAS, then we get that again.”

“Don't say it,” Goalie replied. She, like the rest of the 335th's crews, loathed the CAS mission. Oh, they did it, and did it well, but preferred to leave it to those in the A-4, A-7, and A-10 communities who lived and breathed that mission.

“My lips are sealed,” Guru said, then they went through the post-flight checklist, while the ground crew brought the crew ladder. After taking off their helmets and climbing down, both Guru and Goalie did a post-flight walk-around, then the Crew Chief, Sergeant Crowley, came over with a bottle of water each for both crewers. “Sergeant.”

“Major,” Crowley said, handing Guru and Goalie their water. “How'd it go out there, and how's my bird?”

“Tore up a supply convoy, and Five-twelve's working like a champ,” Guru said after downing half the bottle. “She's still truckin' and keep doing whatever you're doing.”

“Shit hot, sir!” Crowley said. “We'll get her ready for the next one.”

“Do that, Sarge. Won't be too long until the next mission comes down.”

Crowley nodded. “She'll be ready, sir. All right you guys!” Crowley shouted at the ground crew. “You heard the Major! Let's get this bird ready for the next strike!”

Guru and Goalie left the ground crew to their jobs, and walked to the revetment's entrance, where Kara and Brainiac were waiting. “How'd it go for you guys?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“Got some fuel trucks on mine, and saw you got some ammo trucks and a tank transporter,” Kara grinned.

“Good to know,” Guru smiled back. Then he noticed Sweaty and her element coming. “Sweaty? How were things with you?”

“Ammo trucks for me, along with a tank transporter,” replied Sweaty. “Hoser got more fuelers.”

“We did,” Hoser said, and KT nodded.

Then the RAF crews came. “Guru,” Dave Gledhill said. “Too bad a MiG-21 didn't get past those F-16s.” He sounded disappointed that the F-16s had nailed all four MiGs.

“That's what the BARCAP's there for,” Guru reminded everyone. “If they'd gotten closer, say twenty miles? I would've called the break, and it would've been fight's on.”

“Maybe next time,” Flight Lt. Karen McKay said. She was Gledhill's and Jackson's wingmate.

“Maybe,” Kara said. It was no secret in the squadron that Kara was looking for kill number ten, and that would make her the squadron's first double ace, at the least, if not the first female USAF double ace.

“Down, girl,” Guru said. “Can't hog the MiG show, and we all know it. All right, let's get the debrief out of the way, get your IN boxes empty and OUT ones full, and by the way, something in your stomachs as well. Because in an hour or hour and a half, we're back at it.”

Paul Jackson nodded. “No rest for the weary or the wicked, I take it?”

“We'll rest after the war, or when we're dead,” Sweaty replied.

Gledhill and his people nodded at that. “Which one's true?” McKay asked.

“Either one can be graded as correct,” Guru said as a pair of Dodge Crew-cab pickups came to pick up the crews. “Let's go. Get the debrief done, the same with the paperwork, and get ready for the next one.”

With that, the crews piled into the trucks to go back to the squadron office. For the CO was right, and it wouldn't be long until time to go back out.
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  #516  
Old 02-29-2020, 10:34 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Next mission:



335th TFS, 0850 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser sat behind his desk, going over some papers. Why couldn't the paper-pusher crowd leave the warfighters alone, he sighed. Even though the war had reduced the number of bureaucrats that infested the Air Force, there were still enough of that loathsome species to make his life-and that of every other squadron and wing commander-miserable from time to time. At least the Air Force had done something right, and culled out those who were either “Flying a desk” for a non-flying tour, and had also given those who had washed out of flight or navigator training a second chance. But there were still enough paper-pushers around to annoy those who went out and did the fighting, much to his disgust.

He had finished what papers there were, putting them in his OUT box, when there was a knock on his office door. “Yeah? Show yourself and come in!”

The CO's GIB, First Lieutenant Lisa Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, came in with a paper bag in hand. “Got some food for us. You did say to get something to eat after the strike.”

“That I did,” Guru admitted. 'What'd they have?”

“Turkey, chicken, tuna, BLT, and something brown that looks like pastrami but sits there.”

“Turkey and tuna,” the CO nodded. “After dealing with those armchair warriors, I need a little more. And I noticed you took off those captain's bars.”

“I did, and didn't want Frank to complain, even though I'm up for O-3 as we all know. As for the useless bureaucrats? I don't blame you,” Goalie said, handing her pilot-and boyfriend-the sandwiches while he fixed a cup of coffee for both of them. “Glad the only paper I have to deal with is squadron level and that's it.”

Guru nodded. “That won't last. If you ever get your own squadron or wing....”

“I know,” Goalie replied. “But there's this little thing of the war we've got here first.”

The CO knew full well what she meant. Getting through the war was what mattered most of all, and only then could one think about what they would do postwar. Though Guru felt that, unlike past wars, the postwar cutbacks of the military wouldn't be so drastic or thoughtless as in previous instances. A nasty feeling that the postwar military would be larger than prewar's came over him as he attacked the tuna sandwich. “That detail is always there.”

Goalie nodded, but before she could reply, there was a knock on the office door.

“Yeah?” Guru said. “Come on in and show yourself.”

The Exec, Capt. Mark Ellis, came in. “Boss, and Goalie,” he said. “Waiting on a mission, and you ought to know that the newbies are here.”

“Already?” Guru asked. “They hop a space-available instead of the regular C-130 or -141?”

Ellis nodded. “They did, and they're here early, even. No bird for 'em, not until tomorrow.”

“All right, might as well get this over with,” said the CO. “Show 'em in.”

Ellis opened the door, and motioned to the two, both in undress blues, and they came into the CO's office.

Guru regarded them as they entered. The senior of the two was a captain who looked like the typical Irishman, and the CO wouldn't be surprised at all if he did have some of that in his blood, while the junior, a black first lieutenant, had a face that showed confidence, and yet, had a look of nervousness in his body language. Not unknown in someone fresh out of the RTU, and Guru recalled how nervous he had been when he reported to the 335th, two-plus years earlier (or that many lifetimes). Then the captain spoke.

“Captain John McMurray reporting for duty, sir,” he said, snapping a salute.

“First Lieutenant Greg Prather reporting, sir,” the lieutenant said, saluting.

“As you were, both of you,” Guru said, sketching a return salute. “We're a bit informal here, and you may have noticed that everyone's either in BDUs, or for the aircrews, flight suits. And we're on a base at war, so we can drop the jumping up and down nonsense, and that comes from the top at Tenth Air Force. Comprende?”

“Yes, sir,” both said.

Guru nodded, then said to the Captain. “Got your orders and personnel jacket?”

“Right here, sir,” McMurray said, handing both over to the CO.

Guru looked through the 201 File. “Impressive. ROTC from the University of Minnesota, Bachelor's in Aeronautical Engineering, minor in Poli-Sci. Says here you applied to Grad School before the balloon went up.”

“Yes, sir,” McMurray nodded. “I was hoping to get my Master's, go to Test Pilot School, then apply to NASA.”

“Shuttle driver,” said Guru. It wasn't a question, and he saw McMurray nod. “Well, if you make it to the end, you can go back to school on the Air Force's dime.”

“That's what I'm hoping for, sir,”

Guru nodded while he skimmed the file. “Looks like we've got us another ace,” he noted. “Two Badgers, a Bear-D, a Viet MiG-21, and a confirmed Backfire plus a probable.”

“An ace?” Goalie asked, and very much surprised. “If this was WW II, you'd be doing an instructor tour now,”

“He would,” said Guru. “Okay, this is the tac air arena, and you did pay Cam Ranh a few return visits?” He saw McMurray nod, then continued. “Eighty percent or more of our tasking is air-to-ground. CAS, BAI, anti-airfield, armed reconnaissance, you name it. That doesn't mean we're slouches when it comes to hassling with MiGs or Sukhois, but we don't go trolling for bad guys. That can-and sometimes does, get people killed. Am I clear on that?”

“You are, sir,” McMurray said, and Guru could tell he was serious.

“Just as long as you know,” the CO said. “Lieutenant, let's see yours,” he nodded at Prather.

The Lieutenant handed his new CO the orders and personnel jacket. “Here you are, sir.”

Guru looked over the file. “Clmeson senior when the balloon went up, going for your bachelor's in Business, minor in International Relations.” He checked over something, then looked at the new lieutenant. “You were on the football team?” Seeing Prather nod, Guru asked, “What position?”

“Outside linebacker, sir. Never broke a quarterback in half, but gave a few some hard hits.”

“Boss, looks like we've got a secret weapon next time we have a pickup football game with the Jarheads,” Goalie said.

“We do,” the CO grinned. “Just don't let on you played college ball, okay?” He told Prather.

“Yes, sir.”

“All right....fourth in your OTS class, same at Nav-with that, why aren't you in SAC?”

“Major, I wanted tac air,” Prather said. “More chances to hurt the bad guys.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Seventh in your class at Kingsley Field....you may know a friend of mine there. Was Captain Tony Carpenter one of your instructors?”

Prather smiled. “Yes, sir! He was tough, but fair. We were glad to be learning from a combat veteran. Didn't spare the bad stuff-and that includes the resistance time.”

Guru nodded. “He mention that I was his pilot?”

“He did, sir.”

“He also mention that there were things neither one of us were too proud of, but had to do, and some that are not topics for discussion?” Guru asked.

Prather nodded. “Yes, sir. He did mention that.”

“So you know,” the CO said. “All right: you two are a crew. We don't have a bird for you today, but we should have a pair of new birds from Japan sometime tomorrow. You can fly a check flight then, and your flight lead will go with you. Captain Don Van Loan is your new flight lead, and he's also the Ops Officer. Day after tomorrow is a stand-down, so the following day will be your first combat mission as a team.”

“Sounds good, Major,” McMurray said.

Guru heard the reply, and noticed a little bit of eagerness in his voice. “Don't be too eager. Two-thirds of our losses are people who don't make it past ten missions. Now, you're experienced, but air defense and occasionally putting the hurt on Cam Ranh Bay is one thing. This is a whole new ball game. Comprende?”

“Understood, sir.”

“See that you do,” the CO nodded. “Okay, there is a serious Spetsnatz and PSD threat to this base. We're under Marine OPCON, and they take the 'everyone a rifleman' saying very seriously, and that includes us. So, after you've gone to billeting and changed into something more appropriate, the XO will take you to Captain Ryan Blanchard's CSP detachment. You will select a sidearm and rifle, and she and her people will instruct you on the care, feeding, and use of such weapons. So that if you ever hear the base defense siren, and the PA call 'Sappers in the wire', you will be able to defend yourselves. Is that understood?”

“Perfectly, sir.”

“I hope you do,” Guru nodded. “All right: tonight, you're FNGs at the Club. Tomorrow? Animals in the zoo. If you have a call sign, mention it tonight when you're introduced. If you don't....”

“We'll find one for you,” Goalie said. “And if you don't like it, we'll find one even more embarrassing.”

“That we will,” Ellis added.

The CO had a grin on his face when the XO spoke. “Exactly, XO,” he said. “Any questions?”

“No, sir,” McMurray said, and Prather echoed him.

“Very well,” Guru nodded. He extended his hand. “Welcome to the Chiefs.” The two new guys shook hands with the CO, then Guru nodded to the XO. “Mark, show them to Officer Country.”

Ellis said, “Will do, Boss. You two come with me.”

The two new guys saluted the CO, then followed the XO out.

“Memories?” Goalie asked her pilot.

“Yeah,” replied Guru. “I was a nervous wreck when I reported to the squadron, fresh out of Homestead's RTU. Two and a half years ago.”

“And that many lifetimes,” Goalie nodded. It wasn't a question. “Now, how are these two going to shape up?”

Guru knew what she meant. People who were great in training sometimes were zeroes in combat, and the other way around. And McMurray's experience at Clark was about the same as the RAF arrivals. “We'll know soon enough. And they're on the ten-mission clock.” A knock on the door followed that remark. “Yeah?”

The door opened, and Kara came in. “Boss, saw you with the FNGs. Anyway, we've got a mission. Birds are prepped, and mission folder's waiting.”

“We getting the RAF?”

Kara nodded. “Dave Gledhill's element. Dave Golen and Flossy, too.”

“Good. You two, round everybody up. Briefing room in ten.”

Kara and Goalie nodded. “On the way,” Kara said, and Goalie nodded.

“Hope you enjoyed the break, because we're back in the game,” Guru said.

“That we are,” Kara replied. “We're gone.” And both went out the door.

After they left, Guru finished his coffee, then went out the door himself. He nodded to his secretary, who knew that a mission was coming, and she nodded. The CO returned it, then went to the Ops Office. He found Don Van Loan waiting for him. “Don,” Guru said. “Kara says you've got something?”

“That I do, Boss-man,” Van Loan replied. He handed his CO a mission folder. “Comanche East Helo Dispersal. Five miles east of Comanche off of State Route 36. Ivan's using it for Hinds and Hips.”

“This still Soviet 32nd Army's rear?”

“And their HQ,” Van Loan replied. “And you know what that means.”

Guru knew. Army-level air-defense assets were a given. “SA-4 and guns. Lovely.”

“Read the intel sheet, and you won't like it.”

Guru scanned the sheet. Not only was Comanche an Army-level headquarters, but also a division's. He knew that from previous strikes, but still...Then it caught his eye. “Possible SA-11? Intel's full of good news today.”

“They are,” Van Loan winced. “Not my kind of fun, hassling with those puppies.”

Mine neither, the CO thought. “No. And no chance of Weasels?”

“All busy.”

Same old story, Guru knew. Too many requests for them and not enough assets. Oh, well....”At least we've got Dave and Flossy, and the RAF.” Guru nodded, then said, “I know, take care of myself, because you don't want to be Exec and Kara doesn't want to be Ops.”

“Took the words out of my mouth, Boss,” Van Loan grinned. “And I'd best do the same.”

“Exactly,” Guru said. “You have a good one, now, and at lunch? Get to know your new crew.”

“Mark told me.”

“All right, then. See you later.” Guru then headed to his flight's briefing room, and when he got there, he found Buddy, the squadron's mascot, there, waiting. “You'd better find a spot to go to sleep, because this could be a hairy one,” Guru told the dog. He opened the door, and found the rest of the flight already waiting. “People, hope you enjoyed the break, because we're back in the game.”

“Where to, Boss?” Sweaty asked.

“Comanche, and we've been there before. No, not the airport or the Soviet 32nd Army HQ this time, but a helo dispersal area about five miles to the east. We get to make it go away.” The CO passed around some photos. “Target area is at the SR-36-F.M. 304 junction. North of the junction is the helo dispersal, and south of that is a fuel dump-and it's a good-sized one.”

“So, who gets what?” Kara asked.

“Coming to that. First, ingress. We meet up with the tankers over Mineral Wells, then the usual route along the Brazos, staying just east of the river in the Nicaraguan sector. Follow the river to Lake Whitney, and a mile short of the dam, we make a right turn to a heading of Two-five-zero. Stay on that heading, and we avoid Hamilton, where our British friends got burned last time we were there,” Guru said, nodding at Dave Gledhill's people. “Turn point is State Route 16, a mile west of a town called Newburg. Go north, and fifteen seconds after the turn, we pop up. Look for a lake south of the target area. It's Lake Comanche, and the fuel dump is two miles to the north. The helo dispersal is just north of that. ID your targets, make your runs, then get your asses north.”

“Sounds good, Boss, so...”

“Targets,” Guru said. “There are three dispersal areas, and a munitions storage area to the east. I'm taking the center dispersal. Kara?” He nodded at his wingmate. “You get the west one, and Sweaty gets the east.”

“My pleasure,” Sweaty nodded.

“Hoser?” Guru regarded Sweaty's wingmate. “You take the munitions storage.”

“Got it,” Hoser replied.

“Dave?” Guru nodded at Dave Golen and Flossy. “You and Flossy take the fuel dump.”

Golen and Flossy exchanged looks, and nodded. “We'll take it out,” Golen replied.

“Good. As for our RAF cousins?” Guru nodded at Dave Gledhill's people. “Climb and assume a TARCAP. Kill anyone in the air, and break up any party-crashers.”

“Will do,” Dave Gledhill said.

“All right: ordnance. Strike birds get a dozen Mark-82s, each airplane. Six of 'em will have the Daisy Cutter fuze extensions. I know, CBUs would be more appropriate, but not this close to the town.”

Sweaty asked, “Usual air-to-air?”

Guru nodded. “Four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, full twenty mike-mike, two wing tanks, and the usual ECM pod.” That was either an ALQ-119 for the element leads, and the older ALQ-101 for the wingmates.”

Dave Gledhill spoke next. “For us? Four AIM-9Ls, four Sky Flash, two wing tanks, and a SUU-23 gun pod.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Now, defenses,” and the CO noted he had everybody's full attention. “This is an army-level headquarters, and expect that kind of defense. At the target proper? There's several ZU-23s, and you can expect guys with MANPADS. As for heavy stuff? There's several 57-mm batteries around the town, and SA-4s. The intel sheet does mention possible SA-11, and they may be transitioning from the SA-4 to SA-11, so both may be in the mix.”

Preacher said, “Sin Licon's full of good news today,” referring to the squadron's intelligence officer.

“He is. As for MiGs? We'll be only a minute's flight time from Brownwood Regional and as we know, there's two MiG regiments based there. And Goodfellow by San Angelo is only five minutes away, and that's MiG-29 country,” Guru reminded them.

Flight Lt. Susan Napier said, “Just like last time.”

“Yeah, the CO said, recalling the MiG-29 kills from the last visit to the area. “Other than that, the MiG threat is the same as this morning, and the usual bailout rules apply.” That meant anyplace rural, and away from roads if at all possible. “Anything else?”

“How many more?” Jang, Flossy's GIB, asked.

“Two more, unless someone hollers for CAS, and in that case, there's more,” Guru replied. “Just hope nobody makes that call, then we get more than that,” he said as an Ops NCO came to the door to collect the briefing materials. “Any other questions?” The CO looked around, and there were none, and he saw the dog still asleep. “Buddy's still having a nap, so that might be a good omen. Gear up and meet at 512, because we're back in the game.”

The crews headed to their locker rooms to gear up, and when Guru came out of the Men's, Goalie was waiting for him, as usual.

“Well?” She asked.

“Time to get back at it, but I'll be glad for the weather stand-down.”

“Not just for maintenance, but getting some rest,” Goalie observed. “And there's one other thing.”

“What?” Guru wanted to know.

Her expression grew coy. “Bedroom gymnastics.”

“I think we can arrange that,” Guru grinned as they headed on out. They walked to 512's revetment, and found the rest of the flight gathered there, waiting. “Okay, people, gather 'round.” It was time for his final instructions.

“Usual on the radio?” Kara asked. That meant call signs between them, and mission code to AWACS and other parties.

“You got it. Now, nobody's done anything yet about those fucking Mainstays, so if you see that familiar strobe? Don't bother calling it out. And if you see those damned basketball-sized tracers at the target?” That meant ZSU-30-2, and those things were bad news. “Abort. We'll reform and go after opportunity targets.”

KT asked, “When does our EW gear get tweaked?”

“Haven't heard anything from Tenth Air Force, so we'll just have to wait our turn,” the CO said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no, he saw. “Okay, let's go get 'em. Time to hit it. We meet at ten grand overhead.” Guru clapped his hands for emphasis.

With that, the crews headed to their aircraft, and Guru and Goalie went into the revetment to 512. There, Sergeant Crowley was waiting, and he snapped both the CO and his GIB a perfect salute. “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve's ready go back out and kick some more Commie ass.”

Guru and Goalie returned the salute. “Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said. He and Goalie then went about the pre-flight walk-around, and then Guru signed for the aircraft. The pilot and GIB then climbed the crew ladder and mounted their aircraft, strapping in, then going ahead with the cockpit checks.

“Were we all like that? That lieutenant who seemed confident but still nervous?” Goalie asked as they went through the checklist. “Ejection seats?”

“I sure was,” Guru admitted. “Seems like two and a half lifetimes ago, not that many years. Seat armed top and bottom, check yours.”

“Set, and even when I went to my old C-130 squadron, I was still the new one in town.”

“When it's your first assignment, that's probably universal. Arnie?”

“Arnie's all set, and so is the INS,” Goalie replied, referring to the ARN-101 DMAS system and the INS still used as a backup. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. He gave a thumbs-up to his CC, and Sergeant Crowley responded by giving the “Start Engines” signal. First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running. Once the warm-up was complete, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Mustang Flight with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

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

“Roger, Tower. Mustang Lead rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up to Crowley, who waved to the ground crew. The wheel chocks were pulled away, the crew ladder removed, and only then did Crowley give the “Taxi” signal.

Guru released the brakes, and began to taxi out of the revetment. When 512 was clear, Crowley snapped another perfect salute, and also gave a thumbs-up. Guru and Goalie returned the salute, then Guru taxied out of the dispersal area and towards the runway, with the rest of the flight in line. When they reached the holding area, there were, as advertised, two flights ahead of Mustang. The lead was a Marine F-4S four-ship, and ahead of Mustang was a 335th flight of four. After the Marines launched, the 335th flight taxied, and everyone in Mustang recognized the XO's bird.

“Good luck, Corrine,” Goalie said, almost to herself.

“Your friend Cassidy?” Guru asked. She was Firefly's replacement, after he had gone to the F-20.

“Yep, and glad to see she got through her first day. She's got five more to go,” said Goalie, referring to the ten-mission counter before one's chances of making it to the end-whenever that was-increased considerably.

“And after that, who knows how many?” Guru said, even though it wasn't a question. When the XO's flight had gone, Guru taxied into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties, thus making the ordnance “Live.” Then he called the tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clear to taxi for takeoff.”

The controller came back immediately. “Mustang Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are Two-six-five for ten.”

“Roger, Tower,” replied Guru. He taxied onto the runway, and Kara in 520 followed, tucking in at his Five O'clock. A final cockpit check followed, and Guru and Goalie looked over at 520, whose crew gave them thumbs-ups to signal all was ready. Then it was time.

“Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clear for takeoff,” Guru called.

As usual, the tower didn't reply over the radio, but flashed a green light instead. Clear for takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Ready back here,” Goalie replied.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said as he pulled his canopy down and locked it.

Goalie did the same, and they looked over at 520, where Kara and Brainiac had done it as well. The lead element was ready to go.

“Here we go,” Guru said. He firewalled the throttles and released the brakes. Five-twelve rumbled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right alongside. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, followed then by Dave Golen and Flossy, with the RAF F-4J element bringing up the rear.
Once airborne, the flight formed up at FL 100, then headed south for the tankers.


Over Central Texas: 0955 Hours Central War Time:



Mustang Flight was headed south, following their tanker rendezvous. The flight had met the tankers near Mineral Wells, and after topping up from a pair of KC-135s, had gotten down low, and were now past the fence, in enemy territory, just inside the Nicaraguan II Corps sector, and about a quarter-mile east of the Brazos River.

“Lake Granbury's coming up,” Guru said as the lake appeared off to the right. They were close enough to the river to use it as a navigational aid, but hopefully far enough to avoid flak at the bridges from the East Germans.

“Got it,” Goalie replied. “Ten miles to the bridge. Forty seconds.”

“Copy that,” Guru said. He had his eyes on a swivel, checking his instruments, then looking out and around for possible threats. That habit had been drummed into his head at Homestead AFB's RTU from his first day there. Then he checked his EW display. Clear so far. “EW's clear.”

Goalie took a look at her own display. “For now,” she reminded him.

“Lead, Starbuck,” Kara came up. “No Mainstay radar. Where'd he go?”

“He's out there, Starbuck,” Guru said. “He'll show sooner or later.”

Then a strobe appeared on the EW display, with the SEARCH warning light coming on. The display showed the radar off to the south, and the strobe's brightness was poor, but getting brighter. “He's there,” Goalie said.

“Mainstay's back.” Guru said, and it wasn't a question. “Swell.”

“Fun while it lasted, Lead,” Kara said.

It was, Guru said to himself. “Bridge coming up,” he said, meaning the U.S. 377 bridge at Granbury. “And the flak.”

“East Germans at it again,” Goalie noted as the 37-mm and 57-mm on the west side of the river opened up.

“Some things never change,” Guru said as they flew past, noting that U.S. 377 was empty of traffic. “Nobody moving here.”

“Next time,” Goalie said wistfully. She was hoping to catch a truck park or supply dump, or better yet, draw an armed recon. “Twenty seconds to Lake Granbury Dam. One minute to Glen Rose.” That was the U.S. 67 bridge.

“Copy,” Guru said.

The strike flight kept on going, and flew past the dam. Again, the East German gunners at the dam opened up, while the Nicaraguans held their fire. Guru kept the flight on course until they reached a bend in the river, then he turned straight south for the Glen Rose Bridge. “How far to the bridge?”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie called back.

Nodding in the cockpit, Guru then called the AWACS. “Warlock, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

A controller got back to him right away. “Mustang, Warlock. First threat bearing One-three-zero for forty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-six-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-eight-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-one-zero for seventy. Medium, going away.”

“Roger, Warlock. Do you have bogey dope?”

“Mustang, Warlock. First and second threats are Fishbeds. Third threats are Floggers, and fourth are Fulcrums.”

“Copy.”

“Bridge at One,” Goalie advised as the U.S. 67 bridge appeared, along with the puffs of flak from the East German-manned guns on the west bank of the river.

“I see it,” Guru said. The fire was close, but not accurate, as the 37-mm burst to their right, while the 57-mm was behind them. “Next up is Brazospoint.”

“Roger that,” Goalie confirmed. “Twenty seconds.”

Guru replied by turning 512 to the right, and then flying straight down the river. From now on, it would be Libyans on the east bank, and East Germans still to the west. “On it,” he said as the bridge appeared and the Libyans started shooting. Their fire was wild and inaccurate, while the East Germans were more refined, but they still failed to connect. As the flight passed, the crews noted the lack of activity at what had been the town of Brazospoint, where they had put paid to an East German-manned flak trap.

“We're clear,” Goalie called. “Thirty seconds to Route 174.” That was the bridge that signaled Lake Whitney.

“Roger that,” Guru said. As he checked his EW display, he noticed that the Mainstay's signal had suddenly dropped off the air. “Mainstay's gone.”

“Gone?” Goalie asked, dumbfounded. Then she checked her own display. “Confirmed. He's off the air.”

Guru switched to a common frequency, and heard a call. “Lightning One-zero-five, FOX THREE!” Then it repeated. “FOX THREE AGAIN!”

Another call followed. “Lightning One-zero-eight, FOX THREE!”

“What the hell's that?” Goalie asked. Then she remembered and answered her own question. “Got to be F-14s.”

“Nobody else has Phoenix,” Guru said.

“SPLASH! Lightning One-zero-five has a splash!” One of the F-14s had scored.

“One zero-eight has a splash!” The second Tomcat called. “FOX THREE AGAIN!” He then launched a second Phoenix missile at some target.

“Lighting One-zero-five, Warlock. Confirm splash,” the AWACS called.

“Warlock, splash one Mainstay.” One-zero-five called. “We're inbound.”

“Roger, Lightning. Two additional Lightnings and four Eagles ready to cover.”

“Roger that,” the F-14 pilot called as his wingman reported his second kill.

“SPLASH! Two Flankers. Repeat: Splash two Flankers.”

Guru then got back on the squadron's frequency. “Mustangs, Lead. No more Mainstay for this one. Tomcats splashed him.”

“The 174 bridge coming up,” Goalie reminded him. There was still their mission.

“Hot damn, Lead!” Kara called.

“About damned time,” Sweaty added.

“Knock it off, people!” Guru said as they flew past the Route 174 bridge. “Still got this mission to go.” He noticed there wasn't any traffic on the bridge, and to him, that was a pity. If they drew an armed reconnaissance, finding a supply convoy to tear up was always a good option.

“One minute to turn,” Goalie said.

“Roger that,” replied the CO as Lake Whitney opened up.

The strike flight thundered down the lake at 500 Feet AGL and 540 KIAS. Even with the Mainstay gone, the local air-search radars would come up, and that could mean trouble. As the flight headed south, both locals and Soviets or East Germans watched from the lakeshore, as was so often the case. The locals knew that friendly aircraft meant that the war was coming closer, while the Soviets and East Germans knew that the line their political officers told them, that the Socialist Forces controlled the air, was a bunch of bullshit-and now that the front lines were back in Texas, what else that the political officers said was also in the same category?

“Forty-five seconds to turn,” Goalie said.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “Warlock, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

“Mustang, Warlock,” a controller replied. “First threat bearing Zero-eight-five for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-four-five for fifty. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing One-seven-five for fifty. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-five-zero for sixty. Medium, closing.”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie advised.

“Roger, Warlock. Do you have bogey dope?”

“Roger that, Mustang. First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers, and fourth are Fulcrums.”

“Mustang Lead copies,” Guru replied. “Fulcrums might be in the way.”

“As you say, that's what the RAF's for,” Goalie said. “Fifteen seconds to two-five-zero.”

“Call it.”

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

Guru pulled the stick to the right, and 512 banked in that direction, then he settled on the new course of two-five-zero. The rest of the flight copied the turn, and the strike flight settled onto the new course. “How far to the next turn?”

“Four minutes,” Goalie replied.

“Copy.”

The flight continued on course, as State Route 22, then a few seconds later, SR 6 passed by beneath. As they overflew SR 6, a convoy appeared. “Got some traffic down there,” said Goalie. “Too bad this ain't an armed recon.”

“Not their turn to die today,” replied Guru. “Maybe later.”

“I know,” said Goalie wistfully, and not for the first time on the mission. “Still...”

“I know what you mean.”

The hills of this part of Texas gave the region its name: the Texas Hill Country, and to the strike crews, it was also a help, for going in at their altitude meant that a look-down radar would lose them in the ground clutter, while ground-based radars also had trouble. Right now, the pilots had their eyes out of the cockpit, checking for threats, while the GIBs handled the navigation and monitored the EW display.
Two minutes passed, then the strike flight approached U.S. 281, just north of the 281 bridge over the Leon River, several miles north of Hamilton.

“Highway 281 dead ahead,” Guru said. “Got a visual.”

“Copy that,” Goalie replied. “Looks like we've got traffic there.” She had eyes on a convoy or a troop column.

“Armor moving,” Guru said as they oveflew the column, and this time, the Soviets from Hamilton didn't fire.

“No tracers,” Goalie said. “Big or small.”

“Good.”


Below, the Third Battalion from the 327th Guards Independent Tank Regiment had been on a patrol. The tanks and motor-rifle troops had begun to patrol the roads, something that the Rear-Area Protection troops who were the normal garrison had demonstrated an unwillingness to patrol very far from the town. So far, there had been no activity from the bandits and terrorists who called themselves the American Resistance, and the battalion commander, a Major who was a veteran of Afghanistan, something his battalion's company commanders wondered about, to themselves, of course, felt that it was the presence of T-80s and BMP-2s that made sure of that.

The Major in question was, right now, not a happy man. The battalion was returning to its laager north of Hamilton, and was waiting at the Leon River Bridge. The Commandant's Service traffic regulators were the problem-along with a supply convoy headed north. Much to his disgust, the Traffic Regulators had held up his battalion in favor of the supply convoy, which was headed for the East Germans to the north, and the Major was angry, to say the least. He had radioed the Regimental Commander, and the Colonel was on his way, but the East Germans, it seemed, had a priority pass, and unless Front Headquarters intervened, they were likely to get priority over his battalion.

A shout from some of his motor-rifle troops alerted him, and the Major, sitting in his T-80BK command tank, turned to see what the shouting was all about. Eight American F-4s flew over his battalion, headed for some target to the west. Though angry at first, because his air defense battalion had not engaged, the Major was also relieved, for it meant his battalion was not attacked. Which, he knew, would come sooner or later. Now, as the Regimental Commander's own tank appeared at the south end of the bridge, he got off his tank to see if these rear rats who decided where and when his vehicles could be moved would listen to him-and if necessary, the Colonel.

“That's that,” Guru said after clearing the road-and not drawing any fire.

“It is,” Goalie agreed. “Ninety seconds to turn.”

“Copy that,” replied Guru as they maintained their course. He glanced at the EW display. Still clear. Not having a Mainstay's radar lighting up the display was a good thing-always. “EW still clear.”

“Hot damn!” Goalie's reply was nearly a shout. She, too, wondered what had took so long for someone to do something about the Mainstays. Though she also knew that Ivan wasn't likely going to allow for a repeat performance. “One minute.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as the rolling hills and valleys flew by below. Even with the Mainstay gone, he was still keeping an eye out for threats. Especially at low level, for a helo or a Su-25 could appear with little or no warning-and paint transfer at any altitude and their speed was very bad news.

“Thirty seconds.”

“Copy.” Guru turned on his ECM pod. Then he told Goalie, “Set 'em up.” That meant the ordnance.

“On it,” she replied. Goalie knew what he wanted-always. Everything in one pass. Going back and attacking an alerted target was a short road to one's funeral.

“Flight, Lead. Music on, switches on, and stand by to turn.”

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

Goalie came back. “You're set. Turn in ten. Now five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned hard right as State Route 16 appeared, then settled on a course of due north. “Flight, Lead. PULL!” He then buried the stick in his gut as he pulled up. As he climbed, Guru was able to make out Comanche to the west, and the target area. Time to make this happen, he knew. “Ready back there?”

“Let's go,” Goalie said.

“Flight, Lead. Target in sight. Let's go to work.” Guru then rolled in on his attack run.


Near Comanche, the commander of the 2nd Squadron, 114th Independent Helicopter Regiment, was actually in a good mood. His squadron had received several replacement helicopters, even though they were the Mi-24D instead of the V model (Hind-E) that the squadron flew. The Regiment had been battered in the past few months, having been battered in the American Summer Offensive, and now, they were finally able to rebuild. The squadron commander, a major, was also pleased with the quality of the replacement aircrews that had arrived with the helicopters. Though all were fresh from training back in the Rodina, at least they were competent, unlike the motor-rifle and tank blockheads the Regiment often supported. At their orientation briefing, the pilots and gunners had asked the right questions, though several seemed awfully young. Was I like this when I reported to my first unit? The Major wondered to himself. When he was told that the Academy's academic syllabus had been cut from four years to two, with a vigorous emphasis on both officer skills and flying skills, the Major wondered-to himself, of course, how these young puppies would take it. Though they had been trained-and trained hard-on what to expect in America, the Major expected several of these eager faces not to survive their first day in combat. It was always like that. First in Afghanistan, and now here.

Now, the Major was waiting for General Sisov, the Commander of the 32nd Army, to come and inspect the squadron. With the regiment dispersed to several dispersal fields as a precaution against American air attack, things such as regimental inspections were out of the question. Still, the Regimental Commander would accompany the General, and the Major was hoping that things would go well, especially since the squadron would return to combat flying the following day.

About the only thing the Major had reason to be upset about was the air defense-or more correctly, the lack of air defense. Other than a battery of ZU-23s, and some soldiers armed with Strela-3 (SA-14) shoulder-fired missiles, the squadron had no real air defense. The 32nd Army's own 272nd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade handled the air defense in the Army's rear, and their 2K11 Krug (SA-4 Ganef) SAMs had taken losses due to the Americans' antiradar missiles, and replacement radars, missiles, and launchers had not yet arrived. With that, the brigade only had two intact firing batteries available-with both of them covering the north, not the Army's rear.

The Major was wondering how he could broach this with the Regimental Commander if the opportunity arose when the air raid alarm sounded. He looked around, and saw two smoke trails off to the south, and both were closing. American F-4s, he knew. Shouting “AIR ALARM!” The Major ran for a slit trench and jumped in, with several of his aircrews following suit.


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 in on the bomb run. He picked out the center dispersal area, and saw that the four revetments in the dispersal were occupied by Hinds. Good, the CO grinned beneath his oxygen mask. You'll do. As he came in, Guru noticed tracers coming up, and a couple of shoulder-fired missiles, but he ignored all of that as he concentrated on the bomb run. Spotting a pair of revetments, he centered his pipper between them, intending to walk his bombs across the field, and catch at least two of the helos. “Steady....And...Steady....And...NOW!” Guru hit his pickle button, and a dozen Mark-82s came off the racks. He pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did so, and when clear of the target, Guru called, “Lead's off safe.”

“Shit!” The Major muttered to himself. He saw Guru's F-4 fly right over him, and he saw the bombs coming off the aircraft. He rolled on his belly, then curled up into a balls as the bombs exploded. The blasts showered the trench with dirt and some shrapnel, which was followed by two screams. Getting back up, the Major saw that one of his maintenance officers had taken shrapnel to his neck, and another officer had a bomb fragment sticking out of his chest, and the man was bleeding out. He started to go fetch a medical orderly when someone pulled him back into the trench. More American aircraft coming in.

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

“Choppers?” Guru asked as he kept jinking.

“Looks like two,” Goalie replied.

“I'll take those,” Guru said as he picked up Proctor Lake and headed north.


“Two's in hot!” Kara called out as she took 520 down on its bomb run. She saw the results of the CO's run, and was pleased to see two clouds of oily smoke rising from revetments. Kara, too, noticed the flak coming up, and she ignored it as she picked out the western dispersal, and spotted two of the Hinds with rotor blades starting to move. Somebody's trying to take off, she knew as she lined up the dispersal area in her pipper. Kara intended, like the CO, to walk her bombs across the dispersal area and catch at least two on the ground. The choppers grew larger in her pipper as she concentrated on the bomb run. “Steady...And..And...And...HACK!” Kara hit her pickle button and sent her dozen Mark-82s onto the target. She then pulled up and away, and like the CO, she applied power and began jinking. Kara got clear of the target and then made her call. “Two's off target.”


“DAMN IT!” The Major said aloud as Kara's F-4 came in on its run. He glanced up, seeing the bombs come off the aircraft, hoping that the pilot had been distracted by the anti-aircraft fire. Two fireballs erupting as the bombs went off dispelled him of that notion. The Major got up, and saw that one of the tents where aircrew normally stayed between missions had been blown apart, while a fuel truck that had been servicing a helicopter had a burning cab, then it blew up in an orange-red fireball. When he saw the AA gunners turning their weapons back south, he knew that the raid wasn't over, and the Major ducked back into the trench.

“BULLSEYE!” Brainiac shouted from 520's back seat. “We've got good hits!”

“How good?” Kara wanted to know as a shoulder-fired missile flew past on the right side.

“Multiple secondaries good,” her GIB called back.

Kara grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “We'll take those,” she said as she cleared the area, and picked up the CO's bird.


“Three's in!” Sweaty made that call as she came down on her run. She saw the results of Kara's strike, and the fireballs that came up, as well as the flak starting to come her way. Ignoring the 23-mm fire, and a couple of SA-7 type missiles that flew harmlessly past, Sweaty picked out the eastern dispersal, and spotted the revetments. She, too, intended to walk her bombs across the dispersal area, and as she lined up the area in her pipper, two sets of spinning rotor blades caught her eye. Trying to take off under attack? Ivan or not, you've got guts, she thought as she placed her pipper between two of the revetments, and the helos grew larger in the sight. “Steady...Steady.....And...And....NOW!” Sweaty said as she hit her pickle button, releasing her dozen Mark-82s onto the Russians below. She, too, pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as she did so, giving the flak gunners and SAM shooters a harder target as she egressed the area. Once clear of the target, Sweaty made the call. “Three's off safe.”


“Of all the..” the Major muttered as Sweaty's F-4 came in. Huddled in the trench, he ducked as the F-4 released its bombs, and braced for the impact. The bombs exploded, and the trench shook with the concussion, then two more detonations followed, then another. Sympathetic explosions, the Major knew. He stuck his head out of the trench, and saw three pillars of smoke rising from the eastern dispersal area. With that, he knew his squadron was now going to be combat ineffective as of now. The Major started to get up when he noticed the ZU-23s turning back south. Knowing that meant more American aircraft incoming, the Major ducked back into the trench.


“BULLSEYE!” Preacher called. “We've got good hits back there.”

“How many?” Sweaty asked as she kept up with her jinking, as an SA-4 flew over two or three hundred feet above.

“Two or three secondaries,” replied her GIB. “Maybe another.”

“I'll take that,” said Sweaty as she headed north, and picked up both the CO and Kara as she did.


“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he came in on his run. He picked out the dispersal field's munitions storage-which consisted of several revetments filled with cannon ammo, unguided rockets-both 57-mm and 80-mm, and AT-6 ATGMs. Hoser, too, ignored the flak that came up, and even a pair of SA-7 type missiles that failed to guide, as he came in. Centering two of the munitions revetments in his pipper, Hoser stayed steady on the bomb run. “And....And....And....NOW!” He hit his pickle button, sending his dozen Mark-82s down onto the target. Hoser, too, pulled the stick in his gut as he pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did so. Only when he got clear of the target did he call out, “Four off target.”


“Of all the...” The Major muttered as Hoser's F-4 made its run. This time, he watched as the F-4 came in and released its bombs to the east, and right away, he knew what the target was. When the bombs exploded, not only were their explosions visible, but the sympathetic detonations from the squadron's munitions storage added to the chaos. Shaking his head at the sight, the Major started to get out of the trench, but someone-who he didn't know, grabbed him and pulled him back into the trench as the AA guns continued to fire.


“SHACK!” KT hollered from the back seat. “We've got secondaries!”

“How many and what kind?” Hoser asked as he watched an SA-7 fly past on the left, and another that flew by a hundred feet above his aircraft.

“Many and big!”

“Good to know,” replied Hoser as he picked up Sweaty's bird and headed north.

“Five in hot! Dave Golen called as he came in on his run. He, too, saw the flak and ignored it as he went down on the bomb run. He easily identified the fuel dump, and lined up some of the fuel tanks and drums in his pipper. Concentrating on the run, Golen ignored an SA-7 that flew by on the right, and an unguided SA-4 that flew past on the left. As the fuel dump grew larger in his pipper, he got ready. “Steady...And...Ready...Ready....And....NOW!” Golen hit his pickle button, sending his dozen bombs onto the fuel dump below. He then pulled up and away, jinking and applying power as he cleared the target area, only when clear did Golen make the call, “Five off target.”


“Mother of...” the Major thought aloud, then held it, not knowing who was listening. Even under air attack, one never knew who was an informer or not...No matter, the Major heard Dave Golen's F-4 come in, only this time, the explosions were further away. He looked up out of the trench, and saw several fireballs and dark, thick clouds of black smoke rising from south of the road, and right away, the Major knew the fuel depot had been hit. Not only was that some of his fuel up in smoke, but the 32nd Army also used the depot, and he knew that General Sisov, the Army Commander, would be livid at the news. The Major looked around, and saw one more American aircraft coming in, as the AA guns turned to fire at it. This time, he stayed up to watch as what he hoped was the last aircraft to attack came in.


“GOOD HITS!” Terry McAuliffe, Golen's GIB, shouted. “Multiple secondaries!”

“How many?” Golen asked as he jinked to avoid some 23-mm and 37-mm, along with at least one shoulder-fired missile.

“Lots, and they're big!”

Golen grinned beneath his oxygen mask. “Their lucky day,” he observed as he picked up Sweaty and Hoser's birds visually.


“Six in hot!” Flossy called as she brought 1569 down on its bomb run. She saw the secondaries left by her element leader, and knew that the main part of the fuel dump was ablaze, but Flossy had another target in mind. She adjusted her aim, and picked out the truck park next to the dump, where the fuel trucks were parked, and she easily picked them out. Ignoring the 23-mm flak that was coming up, Flossy concentrated on the bomb run, and as the trucks grew larger in her pipper, she got ready. “Steady....And...Steady....Ready.....HACK!” Flossy hit her pickle button, releasing her dozen Mark-82s, then she pulled the stick hard back, as she pulled up and away, jinking and applying power as she did. When she got clear, Flossy made the call, “Six off target.”


“Sookin sin...” Son of a bitch, the Major muttered as he watched Flossy's F-4 come on its run. He saw the bombs come off, and knew before they hit what the target was. Sure enough, a number of fireballs came up as bombs found fuel trucks-a number of them loaded, while others, empty, were tossed around like toys by the blasts. The Major watched as the F-4 pulled away, and then shook his head. This was turning out to be a bitch of a day, he thought to himself. Then his training took over, and he began shouting orders. Time to get some order in this mess...


“GOOD HITS!” That was Jang's shout from 1569's back seat.

“Secondaries?” Flossy asked as she jinked left, dodging an SA-7, then she went right, then left again.

“Multiple!” Jang replied. “And righteously multiple, as Preacher would say.”

“Good enough,” Flossy said as she picked up her element leader, formed on him, and headed north.


In 512, both pilot and GIB were paying attention. “Six in and out,” Goalie said.

“Still got a game on,” Guru reminded her as they cleared Proctor Lake. “One-seven and One-eight, get your asses down and clear.”

“Roger, Lead,” Paul Jackson replied as the two RAF F-4Js departed from their TARCAP orbit, then got back down to pick up the rest of the flight. As they did, they also drew fire, but easily outran it.

“Copy,” Guru replied. “Kara?”

“Right with you, Lead,” Kara replied, and a quick glance by Guru and Goalie saw that she was right with them in Combat Spread.

“Roger that. Sweaty?”

“On your six, and I brought Hoser with me.”

“Copy that,” said Guru. He did a visual scan, then called the AWACS. “Warlock, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

A controller got back to him right away. “Mustang Lead, Warlock. Bandits bearing Two-four-zero for forty-five. Medium, closing. Wait one..” The controller paused, then continued. “Two bandits bearing Two-one-zero for thirty. Low, climbing and closing. Bandits are Fishbeds.”

That made them East German, Guru knew. “How far to the fence?” He asked Goalie.

“One minute thirty,” she replied.

“Roger that,” Guru said. He took a look at the EW display. Still clear. Not taking any chances, he got down even lower, to 400 Feet AGL. “They'll have a hard time picking us out,” he said.

“Not ready for a fight?” Goalie asked. She, too, wanted to add to her kill sheet.

“Only if they get too close,” Guru said. “Warlock, Mustang Lead. Say bogey dope?”

“Mustang, Warlock,” the controller replied. “Closest threats are Fishbeds. Now bearing Two-three-five for twenty-five on a parallel course-wait one. Bandits now turning away.”

Guru grinned beneath his oxygen mask, and so did Goalie. No Mainstay to guide them, and they also knew the Weasels had done a number on many of the Early-warning radars in the area, and others were jammed by the standoff EF-111s or EA-6Bs. “Roger, Warlock. Say second bandits?”

“Mustang, Warlock. Second group of Bandits are Fulcrums. Now Two-four-zero for thirty-five.”

Guru checked his EW display. Sure enough, a single strobe appeared, followed by another, and the A-A warning light came on. Not close enough, and they won't catch us in time, Guru thought. “Roger that, Warlock.”

“One minute to the fence,” Goalie advised.

“Lead, do we turn on the bandits?” Kara asked.

Guru was about to respond in the affirmative when the strobes went out on the display, and the warning light turned off. “Warlock, Mustang Lead. Fulcrums still closing?”

“Negative, Mustang. Fulcrums now bearing Two-five-zero for forty, going away.”

“Hear that, Two?” Guru asked Kara.

“Roger, Lead,” replied Kara. She was disappointed, but knew that if the MiGs had gotten closer, then it would've been a fight. Oh, well. Number ten would come soon enough.

“Thirty seconds,” said Goalie, as Lake Comfort appeared dead ahead. The strike flight flew over the lake, then came I-20 and the Fence.

As the twin ribbons of the Interstate appeared, Guru called to the Flight: “Flight, Lead. Music off and IFF on, out.”

The flight then climbed to altitude, then headed for their post-strike refueling. This time, the RAF birds were able to tank from their own Tristar, while the 335th hooked up with a pair of KC-10s. Once that was done, the flight headed back to Sheppard.

When Mustang Flight arrived, they were fourth in the pattern after a 335th flight, one each of Marine Hornets and F-4s, and the westbound C-141. When it was their turn, the flight came in and landed. As they taxied off the runway and back to their dispersal area, the crews noticed four F-4Es sitting on the transient ramp, in fresh SEA camouflage.

“Our birds must be early,” Guru noted as they passed by.

“Though they weren't due in until tomorrow,” Goalie said as 512 passed the news crew, who was filming, as usual.

“So did I,” Guru remarked “Or..”

“Or what?”

“They're passing through. Maybe these four belong to the rest of the 4th or the 347th further east.”

“Maybe,” Goalie said. Wonder of wonders if they got up to full strength in aircraft.

The flight taxied to their dispersal area, then the individual crews found their revetments. Guru taxied 512 into its revetment, and once he was in, Sergeant Crowley gave him the “Stop”, followed by the “Shut down' signal. The ground crew put the wheel chocks, then the CO shut down the engines. The ground crew brought the crew ladder as the crew popped the canopy, then went through their post-flight checklist. That finished, Guru took off his helmet and climbed down, followed by Goalie. After they went through with the post-flight walk-around, Sergeant Crowley was waiting with a bottle of water for each. “Sarge,” Guru said. “Thanks.”

“How'd it go, sir?” Crowley asked. “Anything wrong with my bird?” Crew Chiefs never forgot to remind the pilot that the aircraft belonged to the crew chief, and the crew only borrowed it.

“Tore up some Hinds on the ground, and didn't take any hits. Five-twelve's working like a champ. Whatever you're doing, Sergeant, don't change a thing,” said Guru, who then downed half a bottle of water.

“Any of 'em get airborne?” Crowley asked. He, too, wanted to put another red star on the CO's bird.

“Nada,” Goalie said with a tone of disgust. “We hit 'em too fast.”

“Too bad, Ma'am,” Crowley said.

“It is,” Guru said after finishing the bottle. “Sarge, get the post-flight finished. Then you people get yourselves some chow before getting her ready for the next one.”

Crowley beamed at that. “Yes, sir!” He turned to the ground crew. “Okay, you heard the Major! Let's get the post-flight done, then we'll get us some chow.”

The ground crew responded with a will, as Guru and Goalie then headed for the revetment's entrance. When they got there, Kara and Brainiac were waiting, along with Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT. “Well?” Guru asked. “Got a couple Hinds on the ground, so how'd things go with you guys?”

“Got two or three,” Kara said. “Too bad they were all on the ground,” she spat. Everyone heard the contempt in her voice,for she was looking to make double ace, and they all knew it.

Guru nodded. “Down, girl. I know, you're hoping to get number ten, but we take 'em however we get 'em. Sweaty?”

“Got a couple,” replied Sweaty.

“On the ground,” Preacher added. He, too, wanted another kill in his log book.

“Your time will come,” the CO reminded them. “Hoser?”

“Got the ammo dump,” said Hoser. “Lots of secondaries after that.”

“There were plenty,” KT added.

“Same for the fuel dump,” Dave Golen said as his element came up. “Those helicopters won't be flying for a few days.”

“Hopefully,” Flossy added. “Hard to move fuel around if the fuel tankers got blown sky-high.”

A new voice answered her. “It is that,” Sin Licon said as he came up. The 335th's Intelligence Officer liked to meet the crews after they landed and do a little informal debriefing before taking care of things more seriously.

“Quite,” Dave Gledhill added as his people came over from their dispersal area. “That's four in a row with us where we've never fired a shot.”

“You guys still did your job, Dave,” Guru said. “Keep that in mind.”

“Will do,” Gledhill nodded. “Too bad those MiGs didn't get closer.”

Guru also nodded. “If they'd gotten closer, it would've been fight's on, but since they turned away...”

“He who runs away lives to run away another day,” Flight Lt. Susan Napier, who was Gledhill's and Paul Jackson's wingmate, said. “Either that, or they had orders not to cross the fence.”

“Good question, Susan,” Gledhill replied. “Sin?”

“Might be...” the Intel wondered. “Let's debrief, Major, Squadron Leader.”

Guru sighed. That was the last item of business on a mission, and right now, he wanted to get something to eat first. Oh, well....Have to make the intels happy. “Okay, Sin. Let's get that done. People, once we're finished,” he told the crews. “Get your desks clear of any paperwork, then some chow, because in an hour or an hour and a half, we're back at it.”

“No rest for the weary or the wicked,” Susan Napier joked.

“We'll rest when the war's over or we're dead,” Razor Wilkinson, her GIB, replied.

“Both answers can be graded as correct,” Gledhill reminded them.

Guru nodded. “They can. All right, let's make the intels happy.”

“Thanks, Major,” Licon said. “Oh, those four birds on the transient ramp? Word has it they may all belong to us now.”

“All four?” Guru asked as the others were wondering in amazement. Four new F-4s, and they were theirs now? “Anyone talk to the senior ferry pilot?”

“Van Loan tried as senior officer present,” Licon said. “He won't talk to anybody but the CO, and you've been out. They've been here for half an hour or so.”

Guru looked at his intel officer. “He have anything?”

“He does,” Licon admitted. “Sealed envelope, with orders to give it to you, and you only.”

“Tell this guy I'll see him when the debrief's done,” Guru said.

“Got it, Boss,” Licon said.

“All right, we're on the clock. Let's debrief, then we'll see what this is all about,” Guru said. “Let's go.”
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  #517  
Old 02-29-2020, 10:38 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
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Getting some new aircraft, and a new mission...Anyone recognize General Starukhin?



335th TFS Offices, 1120 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser came out of the briefing room, the debrief over and done. Now that the Spooks had been made happy, the CO was looking forward to lunch, but first, some squadron business had to be taken care of. The Major went to his office, where his secretary, Staff Sergeant Tricia Lord, was at her desk. “Trish? Anything?”

“No, Major, no calls.” She nodded at another Major who was chatting up a female Lieutenant-who happened to be one of the assistant maintenance officers. “That officer there, though, wants to see you.”

Guru regarded the officer, who was still in his flight suit, as one might expect. No need to change into undress whites here. “He the senior ferry pilot?”

“That's what he told me, sir.”

“All right, tell him I'll see him in five minutes, after I check my IN box.”

“Yes, sir.”

Guru then went into his office, and checked his IN Box. Nothing important, he was pleased to see, though some idiot was still sending memos to F-4 squadrons (and presumably, similar ones to F-15 and F-16 squadrons as well) critical of “excessive expenditure of twenty-millimeter ammunition.” Shaking his head at the thought of some armchair warrior criticizing the way those on the firing line waged the war, he fed the offending memo to the shredder, while silently wishing that Sundown Cunningham would pay this bureaucrat a visit-and give him a kick in the ass. Literally.

That done, the CO nodded to himself, then opened his office door. “Trish? You can send that guy in.”

“Yes, sir,” his secretary nodded, then she went over to the officer in question, who then came over to the office. Guru regarded him-a well-built fellow who looked like he'd been a baseball player in college.

“You are?” Guru asked. No need to salute, for both could see the other wore gold oak leaves.

“Major Paul Lancaster. You must be Major Wiser.”

“Sure am,” Guru replied. “Call sign Guru. My Ops Officer tells me you brought me some airplanes, and a sealed envelope.”

Lancaster nodded. “I did,” he replied. Then he handed the CO the envelope in question. “Here you are.”

Guru took the envelope and opened it. Out came a note from General Tanner, the Commanding General of Tenth Air Force. He began to read.

“Major, you were probably expecting to get two new birds as attrition replacements. You're the squadron in Tenth Air Force with the lowest loss rate, and you deserve some kind of reward for that. Pulled a couple of strings, and you're now up to full strength in aircraft. The four birds this officer delivered are all yours. Brand-new from Japan and the Depot at Hill. With their EW systems having the latest tweaks.” That was where equipment-such as the AJB-7 bombing computer and the “Sniffing” gear for Wild Weasels was installed, that sort of thing being forbidden under Japanese law. Guru kept reading. “Sorry, but I do read your mind from this far west, but you can't poach the ferry crews for replacements. I'll light a fire under those folks who handle such things, and you should have two new crews in a few days. Your birds are also due to have their EW gear tweaked in a week, plus or minus a couple of days.”

“Awful nice of him,” Guru muttered gratefully. “Thanks for the new birds, General. We'll put 'em to good use.”

“Major?” Lancaster asked.

“Nothing,” Guru said. He went on reading. “I've been briefed on that little project you and your GIB have been cooking up, thanks to General Olds. He's impressed with what you've got so far, though he did tell me you need a lot more intel before you can put a proper strike plan together. My ops people are also impressed, and they want to put their input into this little plan. I know, you're modeling this on BOLO, where the people who plan the mission fly it. This is your baby, and you can accept or reject their advice as you see fit. I'll find time in my schedule next week, and I do want to see you in person. Bring your GIB, your planning material, such as it is, and your F-4. And if that snotty major who just got himself an Article 15 complains? You already know what to do. Plan to stay at Nellis for two days, and let your Exec run things.

“No word yet on when General Cunningham's coming out this way, but plan for Mid-December. If said snotty major is still around? Sundown will do everyone a favor, and we all know what that means. Keep doing what you're doing, Major, and I'll try and get there and pay all of my kids there a visit around Christmas or New Year's.

“Tanner.”


Guru nodded, then folded the letter. “Okay, Major, I probably have to sign for some airplanes.”

“Your Ops Officer took care of that,” Lancaster said.

Guru nodded again. “You all going to RON, or wait for a ride out of here? Because the westbound C-141's already left.”

Lancaster grimaced. The last thing he and his people wanted to was stay here, with that Thrace character around. “We did pack, but..”

“What?”

“I have to ask: is that crazy one-Thrace-still around?”

Guru nodded. “She is. And she's my best pilot. Why do you want to know?”

Lancaster nodded back, this time grimly. “Because I've lost my shirt to her-along with a few others, and I'd like to avoid that if at all possible.”

The CO stared at Lancaster. “You run afoul of her, well....'alternative payment plan?'”

“No, but I do know two guys who have.”

“Not surprised at that,” Guru said. How many has she taken to bed, he wondered. Then again, maybe he didn't want to know.

“Along with at least one girl,” said the visitor.

Guru looked at him, then rolled his eyes. Nothing he heard about Kara's antics surprised him any more. “Well, when we've got someone who would qualify as a board-certified nymphomaniac around, that's probably to be expected. So you'll have to wait until morning to get out of here. Okay, find the XO, and the SDO will point you in his direction. He'll find billeting for you guys, and tonight at the Club? Keep your wallets under lock and key. With Kara around, and people who are doing RONs?” Guru saw Lancaster paying close attention. “Meat on the table for her.”

“I'll let the new guys know, and half of us are the old Vietnam term-cherries, so they'll be warned.”

“All right, and while your new guys are here, have 'em pay attention to what's going on. We're only a hundred miles plus from the front lines, so have 'em watch and listen. They'll be in combat sooner or later, and they'll be glad. If you want, have 'em sit in on a mission brief or debriefing.”

“More of an education,” Lancaster said. “Will do.”

Guru nodded. “Find the Exec, and he'll help get you guys bedded down for the night.”

“Thanks,” said Lancaster, shaking Guru's hand.

“Anytime, and if you need anything while you're stuck here? Don't hesitate to ask.”

“Gotcha.”

As Lancaster left the office, he passed Goalie coming in, with two Styrofoam containers. “Who's he?” Goalie asked as she came in with lunch for both her and Guru. “Ferry driver?”

“Yep, and the senior one. Those four new F-4s on the transient ramp? They're ours.” He showed her the note from General Tanner. “Before you read on, no poaching crews, though. He does want both of us in Nellis sometime next week.”

“The strike on the Su-24s we're cooking up?” She saw her CO and lover nod, then went on. “Ever since the Brits got here, we haven't had much time to plan,” Goalie reminded him.

“I know, but chances are, that mission has an unofficial go-ahead. We'll probably get the green light after this meeting, then we get serious with planning.”

“Sounds good,” Goalie said. “Anything else?”

“They've all run into Kara before,” said Guru. “This guy told me he knew two guys who did run afoul of Kara's....alternative payment.”

Goalie nodded. “She's had a year to get that going.”

“That, and he also said that Kara's bi, because he knows of one female officer who also had to use that plan....” Guru grimaced as he said that, but knew that with his rambunctious wingmate, nothing would surprise him anymore. Her making ace was a little wild after-hours, he recalled. Then there was the story about a beach party in Oahu that was, to use Kara's phrase, “Multiple partner wild.....”

Goalie rolled her eyes, but she, too, wasn't surprised. “Would've found out sooner or later. Enough of that: it's chowtime.”

“As long as it's not the Suggestion of Pork Tri-tip, I'll eat. What's on the menu today?”

Goalie opened the containers. “Barbeque Chicken with cole slaw and fries.”

“Then we chow down.”


After lunch, Goalie was about to leave when Kara came in. “Boss,” Kara said. “We've got a mission. Just came down from Tenth Air Force.”

“Where to?” Guru asked.

“Someplace we were two days ago.” Kara handed her CO the frag order. “Brownwood Regional again.”

“WHAT?” Goalie yelled. “AGAIN?”

“Again,” Kara nodded. She, too, wasn't that happy about it either. But if things went the same way as they did two days prior, MiG-29s might show, and the chance to kill one of those....

“Down, both of you,” Guru said. He scanned the frag order. “Six-ship this time, and the Brits. Kara? Find Dave Golen and Flossy. They're coming with us.”

“Will do, and the Brits?”

Guru thought for a few seconds. “Dave Gledhill's element,” he replied without hesitation. “Find everybody concerned, and get 'em to the briefing room. Fifteen minutes.” That would let them finish lunch at least....

“On the way,” Kara said as she headed out the door.

Goalie nodded. “Break was fun while it lasted.”

“It was. Now we're back in the game. Find some of our people and get them to the briefing room.”

“Will do,” Goalie said. “I'm gone.”

After she left, Guru cursed-then he left his office, and went to the Ops people. When he got to the Ops Office, he found Don Van Loan waiting with a target folder. “Don,” Guru said.

“Boss,” Van Loan replied. “Here's Brownwood Regional again,” he said, handing the CO the briefing folder.

“Lovely,” Guru spat. “Whose bright idea was this?” He saw the Ops Officer start to reply, then held up his hand. “I know, somebody at Tenth Air Force.” Guru scanned the mission order. “Well, now.”

“What?”

“Got an addendum to the Frag Order. Two Weasels will join us at the tankers.”

“About damned time somebody heard those hollers,” Van Loan said. “You, me, Mark, and just about every flight or element lead in this squadron's been screaming for Weasels.”

Guru nodded. “Somebody did listen,” he said. “Okay, you be careful, now. I know, You don't want to be XO, and Mark doesn't want to be CO.”

Van Loan laughed. “Took the words out of my mouth, Boss. You be careful your own self.”

“Will do. Oh, those four new birds? Have Chief Ross get them over to our dispersal area.”

“Already on it,” Van Loan said.

“All right: you have a good one, and see you later.” Guru said.

“Likewise.”

Guru then went to his flight's briefing room, and when he got there, everybody was waiting. Even the squadron's mascot, Buddy, who then found a corner and went to sleep. “All right, people! Hope you all enjoyed the break, because game time's come again. Hold onto your lunch, though. Somebody thinks we need to go back to a target we hit two days ago. Brownwood Regional Airport.” Several of the crews stared at their CO incredulously, then it was Sweaty who broke the silence.

“Fuck that, Boss!” She said. “That place can crawl.”

“It does, and this time, we're getting Weasels. Two F-4Gs will join up at the tankers. Coors One-seven and One-eight will be at the tanker track, waiting for us.”

“Jolly good,” Squadron Leader Dave Gledhill said. “First time we'll have those, I believe.”

“Weasels are a good thing,” Guru said. “All right: ingress. We hit the tanker track west of Mineral Wells, and the Weasels latch on to us. Then we get our asses down low, and cross the fence. Pick up the Leon River, and that's near State Route 16, which is the boundary between the East Germans and the Soviet 32nd Army, and head south to Proctor Lake.”

“That's close to Comanche, which we just hit, Boss,” Hoser reminded him.

“True, but they'll still be busy picking up the pieces,” Guru said. “Anyway, when we hit the south side of the lake, we turn five degrees left, then head for the town of Gustine. Get there, then turn right to a heading of One-eight-five. Twenty-four miles to Lake Meritt, that's a minute and a half flight time. Then we turn due west to the town of Indian Creek-that's where F.M. 45, F.M. 586, and F.M. 574 all intersect. This is a town, not a collection of ruins, by the way. Turn north, and it's exactly sixteen miles-one minute's flight time-to Brownwood. We pop up there, ID the target, and make our runs. Then get your asses down and away from there, and head north.”

“Still 3rd Shock Army there, Boss?” Kara asked. “Those guys have a lot.”

“They are, and they do,” Guru acknowledged. It's Army-level, so SA-4, with possible SA-11. There's also some armor around, and they have ZSU-23-4 and SA-9 or -13. The airport's defenses are still a mix of 23-mm, 37-mm, and 57-mm, and guys with MANPADS.”

“MiGs?” Flight Lt. Susan Napier, who was wingmate to Gledhill and Flight Lt. Paul Jackson, asked.

“Unchanged since this morning. Remember that this field hosts two Regiments-one Soviet with MiG-23s, the other East German with MiG-21s. And this is close enough to San Angelo and Goodfellow with MiG-29s.”

“Ran into Fulcrums last time,” Paul Jackson nodded. “Got a couple.”

Guru nodded back. “Yeah, and there might be more with that Mainstay down. Be careful of what you wish for, especially around here.”

Kara finished for him. “Because you might regret it. So, who gets what?”

“You and I,” Guru said. “We take the ramp area. I'll take north, you get south.”

“Got it, and tell me we're using CBUs,” Kara said.

“We are,” the CO replied. “You and I each have a dozen Rockeyes.”

Kara and Brainiac's faces each had a grin. “About time we get those puppies again.”

“Yep, and that's with the usual air-to-air load.” Guru added, meaning four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, two wing tanks, a full load of 20-mm, and an ALQ-119 ECM pod for him and an ALQ-101 for Kara.

Sweaty asked, “And us?”

Guru passed around some reconnaissance photos. “They've built some field hangars since we were there last. Some of these are on the north side of the ramp, others on the south side. You guys get those and a dozen Mark-82s to rip them up.”

“Our pleasure,” Preacher, who was Sweaty's GIB, said.

“Good.” The CO turned to Dave Golen and Flossy. “You two? There's a choice of targets.” He handed them some more photos. “There's a fuel dump that's brand new. It's east of the field on the east side of U.S. 183. There's revetments filled with either fuel drums or fuel bladders, and quite a few trucks. South of that is what looks like a newly-built munitions storage area. It's not on these old photos. Then there's the old fuel dump, and the runways.”

“I'm worried about following Dave if he hits either fuel dump,” said Flossy. “All that smoke means either an abort or bombing blind.”

“Can't have the former,” Dave Golen said. He scanned the photos, then nodded. “I'll take the old fuel dump. If I can't ID that? Then I'll take one of the runways.”

“All right,” said Guru. “Flossy? The fuel dump east of the field is yours.”

“I'll take it out,” Flossy said firmly, and Jang, her GIB, nodded.

“All right. Weather and bailout areas still unchanged,” Guru told the crews. “Any other questions?”

“Just one,” Susan Napier said. “Any of those bloody guns around?”

Guru looked at her. “You're referring to ZSU-30s?” When she nodded back, he went on. “There's a tank division located nearby, and they may have the guns. If you see any of those damned basketball-sized tracers? Call them and that's an abort right there. We'll reform east of the field and start looking for opportunity targets.”

Kara added, “This is an Army-level rear area, so we ought to find something to hit.” Being Assistant Ops Officer, she would know from all the recon photos that the office used to put together the mission folders.

“We should,” Sweaty said.

“Ought to,” said Guru. He looked around, and saw Buddy still fast asleep. “All right, hope you all enjoyed halftime, because it's time to kick off the second half. Gear up, and we'll get ready to start the third quarter. I'll see you at 512's revetment.”

The crews headed to the locker rooms as an Ops NCO came to collect the briefing materials. Then Guru went to the Men's Locker Room to gear up. When he came out, Goalie was waiting for him, as usual. “Ready to get back in the game?” Guru asked his GIB.

“And to earn my flight pay,” Goalie replied with a chuckle.

“Another reason to get back out,” Guru nodded, grinning. “Even if, on April 15, Uncle Sam gets his share back.”

They both laughed, then headed on out. When they got outside, both noticed Capt. Kevin O'Donnell's maintenance people towing one of the new birds into the dispersal area. “Kev,” Guru said. “Anything leap out of the new birds?”

The Maintenance Officer shook his head. “We've got the maintenance records, and everything worked like a charm on the acceptance flight, the TransPac, and the check flight from Hill. It all checks out.”

“Good,” the CO nodded. “Tell Van Loan, and his newbies can get a hop in this one in a couple hours or so.”

“Will do, and Boss?” O'Donnell said. “Good luck out there.”

“Thanks, Kev,” said Guru.

Guru and Goalie then headed to 512's revetment, where the rest of their flight was waiting. “Gather 'round, people.” He was giving his final instructions.

“Usual on the radio?” Kara asked. Everyone knew it by heart, but still...

“That it is,” Guru said. “We're still Mustang Flight, by the way. Now, a reminder: this field we're hitting? There's two MiG regiments there: one's East German, the other Soviet. If anybody tries to take off ahead of you? Splash 'em.”

“With pleasure,” Kara grinned. Everyone knew she was out for her tenth kill and becoming the first female double ace in the Air Force.”

“Other than that?” Guru said. “If they get within ten miles, fight's on. Before I forget? Be glad somebody splashed a Mainstay.”

People grinned at that news. “Well, Boss, the Navy's good for something once in a while,” KT said.

“Down, girl,” Guru replied. He had a cousin who was an A-6 driver on a carrier based out of San Diego, and the Navy was fighting its own war, out at sea as well as on land. “Tomcats do have their uses, so keep that in mind. Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Then it's game time again. Meet up at ten grand overhead. Time to hit it.”

The crews headed to their aircraft, while Guru and Goalie went into the revetment. Before they got to 512, Sergeant Crowley snapped a perfect salute, which they returned. “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve's all ready to go out and kick some more Commie ass.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said. He and Goalie did their usual pre-flight walk-around, then after Guru signed for the aircraft, they climbed the crew ladder and got into their seats. After strapping in, they went through their preflight checks.

As they went through the checklist, Goalie said, “No Mainstay for a while. Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom,” replied Guru. “Check yours, and his replacement might already be up-and care to bet there's several Flankers watching him?”

“Seat armed, and yeah, the new one's got buddies around.”

“Ivan's not dumb, at least in that department,” Guru said. “Arnie?”

“All set, and the backup INS,” said Goalie. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“We're set,” Guru confirmed. He gave a thumbs-up to his CC, and Crowley gave him the “Start Engines” signal in return. First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running. After the warm-up, Guru called the tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

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

“Roger, Tower. Mustang Lead rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up to Crowley, who waved to the ground crew. The chocks were pulled away, along with the crew ladder, then Guru released the brakes. Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal, and 512 eased out of the revetment. When clear, Crowley snapped another perfect salute, and both pilot and GIB returned it.

Guru taxied out, and the rest of the flight followed. He taxied to Runway 35L, and when he got to the holding area, another 335th flight, and this one was a two-ship, which he recognized as Don Van Loan's due to his tail number and tail code. After the Ops Officer's flight departed, Guru led the flight into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapons safeties. That made the ordnance “live,” and it was time to call the tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clearance to taxi for takeoff.”

“Mustang Lead, Tower,” replied the controller. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-seven-three for five.”

“Roger, Tower,” said Guru. He taxied onto the runway, and Kara followed in 520. A final cockpit check followed, then he called the tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the tower controller didn't respond by radio, instead flashing a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked his GIB.

Goalie replied, “All set back here. Let's fly.”

“Let's,” Guru agreed. “Canopy coming down,” he added, pulling down his canopy, then closing and locking it. Goalie did the same, and a quick check of 520 showed that Kara and Brainiac had done the same. All was ready for both aircraft. The crews exchanged thumbs-ups, then it was time. “Here we go,” Guru said, firewalling the throttles, then he released the brakes. Five-twelve rumbled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right alongside. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, followed by Dave Golen and Flossy, with the RAF element right behind them. They formed up at FL 100, then headed south for their rendezvous with the tankers and the Weasels.


Over Central Texas: 1320 Hours Central War Time:

Mustang Flight was headed in, low and fast. After meeting up with the tankers, the two F-4Gs had latched onto the flight, as had been briefed, and now, they were going in. After crossing the I-20, the flight picked up State Route 16. Though it was a north-south highway, it was also the boundary between the East German Army-level formation to the east, and the Soviet 32nd Army to the west. And that meant that both allies were not likely to be talking to each other-at least when it came to air-defense matters. More often than not, that meant that inbound strike aircraft had a free ride into enemy territory.

In 512, Guru was watching his instruments, then his EW display, then outside the cockpit. Lessons drummed into his head at the RTU before the war, and reinforced the hard way during the first few days, meant that one always had their head on a swivel. “So far, so good,” he said on the IC.

“So far,” Goalie acknowledged. She, too, was watching, along with keeping up on the navigation. Though the ARN-101 DMAS system was a big boost to navigation, especially at low level, she and the other GIBs had a simple backup: map, compass, and stopwatch. “Lake Comfort to the left. Proctor Lake in ninety seconds.”

“Copy that,” replied Guru. He glanced at his EW display. The strobe that normally signaled a Mainstay's radar were not there. Good. Maybe after one had been splashed by the Navy earlier, the Russians were keeping the remaining ones-however many that was-on the ground instead of in the air. He did notice another radar, on the display-with an “S” surrounded by a square, and that meant a known search radar-a ground one. The reason for the strobes had been that the EW system had not been tweaked to positively ID the Mainstay radar, hence the strobe and the SEARCH warning light. At least the ground radar was a known one, and this one wouldn't have a chance of picking them up.

“One minute,” Goalie advised.

“Copy,” Guru said. He glanced around, and saw some military traffic moving on the highway. Nothing major, but a company's worth each of tanks and APCs would have definitely attracted his attention-if they were on an armed reconnaissance, and Guru would've loved to draw another one of those. Then the Leon River appeared, and Guru turned slightly left to pick up the river. Next up would be Proctor Lake. “How long to the lake?”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie said. “EW mostly clear.”

“It is,” said Guru. The search radar had gone off. Good. “Warlock, Mustang Lead. Say threats?” Guru said, calling the AWACS.

A controller came back to him at once. “Mustang Lead, Warlock. First threat bearing One-five-zero for fifty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing Two-one-zero for sixty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-four-five for sixty-five. Medium, going away.”

“Roger, Warlock. Say bogey dope?”

“Mustang, Warlock,” the controller replied. “First threats are Fulcrums. Second threats are Fishbeds, and third threats are also Fulcrums.”

“Roger that.”

“State Route 6 coming up,” Goalie said. “Fifteen seconds to the lake.”

“On it,” Guru said as the state highway came into view. No traffic, he saw as they overflew the road, still heading south. Then the north shore of Proctor Lake appeared. “Lake at twelve,” he called.

The strike flight flew over the lake, and as it approached the south shore, Goalie made the call. “Turn point coming up. In five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned 512 five degrees left as the flight crossed the shore-and U.S. 67-377, and headed for Gustine, the small town on State Route 36 that was their next turn point. As the flight crosed the highway, both Guru and Goalie noticed several military vehicles on the road. “Saving bombs today..” Guru said wistfully.

“Still wish we were on armed recon?”

“In a heartbeat,” Guru said. “How far to Gustine?”

Goalie replied, “Thirty seconds.”

“Copy.”


At the same time as Mustang Flight's flyover, a Soviet patrol from the 619th Motorized Rifle Regiment, 203rd Motor-rifle Division, had pulled over along U.S. 67/377. A company from the Regiment's 3rd Battalion, along with a tank platoon, had been on a routine patrol, and they had met up with their East German counterparts. Both parties had found nothing, and had headed back towards their respective laagers. However, the Soviet company commander decided to pull over and have a look around the town of Proctor. The town had a small store, a cafe, a church, and a few houses, and not much else.

The Soviet commander, a Captain, went into the store and found the proprietor pleasant enough, but barely. Everyone knew the front lines weren't that far north, and the Captain knew that the locals-and in this part of Texas, one could say that it meant without exception, were eager to have the U.S. Army come further south. Having fought his first battle during the Wichita business-and then the long withdrawal south, the Captain knew that things had gone from bad to worse, and his veterans knew it. The replacements, though.....many still believed what their political officers back home in the training programs told them, though some-the officer replacements, for example, were more cynical. One of the Junior Lieutenants-the new commander of Second Platoon, had told him about his convoy's trouble. They were out in the Central Atlantic when there had not only been a submarine attack, and seeing a guided-missile destroyer and a tanker torpedoed had been a surprise, but right afterwards, there was an air strike, and the American aircraft were clearly carrier-based. Two freighters and another tanker had been sunk or crippled, and right then and there, the young officer knew that this war was certainly not going the way State Television and Radio-not to mention the Political Officers-had been saying.

The Captain didn't need that story to tell him that the war was clearly going badly. He had been a platoon commander himself when the Wichita Campaign had started, only to take command after the company commander and the other platoon commanders had been killed or wounded. The rearguard had been a long one, and now that the Regiment was being reconstituted, maybe things would get better, but any thought of going back north, he had heard from his battalion commander, was out of the question. Still, the Captain was grateful for the brand-new BTR-70s for his boys, and the new T-80s for the tankers-how that had happened nobody knew.

After talking with the shopowner, the Captain waved to his men to mount up. Suddenly, eight American F-4s flew by overhead, and they didn't bother attacking. Either his company wasn't worth attacking, or the aircraft had business elsewhere. Shrugging his shoulders, the Captain yelled at his men to get moving, and the company's vehicles started up. If there were more Americans coming, he wanted to be somewhere where the Regimental air-defense battalion was covering.


“Gustine coming up,” Guru said. “Route 36 dead ahead.” He had eyeballs not only on the town, but the state highway.

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

Guru turned 512 to the right as they flew over the town, and the others followed suit. Staying in formation, the eight-ship formed up on its new course of One-eight-five. “Next up is Lake Merritt.”

“Roger that,” Goalie called back. “Ninety seconds.”

“Copy,” said Guru. Just over twenty-four miles. He glanced at his EW display, and it was still clear. Then a strobe came up to the southeast, at his Ten O'clock, and the SEARCH light came on. “Great.”

“What?”

“Check your EW display,” Guru said with an exasperated tone in his voice.

Goalie did so, and she was just as...agitated. “Another Mainstay?”

“Looks like it,” Guru spat. “Flight, Lead. Music on, we've got another Mainstay.”

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

“One minute to Lake Merritt,” Goalie added.

Guru nodded in his cockpit. “Copy.” Then he decided to call the AWACS. “Warlock, Mustang Lead. Say Threats.”

“Mustang Lead, Warlock,” the controller replied. “First threat bearing One-three-zero for forty-five Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-nine-five for fifty-five Medium, going away. Third threat bearing Two-two-zero for sixty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Say bogey dope?”

“Mustang, first threats are Fulcrums, with the second being Fishbeds. Third threats are also Fulcrums.”

“Roger that, Warlock,” Guru siad.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie called as State Route 16 appeared again. This time, it was empty of traffic as the strike flight flew parallel to the road, then crossed it as Lake Merritt appeared. “Lake coming up.”

“On it,” Guru said. “Time to turn?”

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

Guru then turned west, towards Indian Creek, and their final turn point before the target. “Time to next turn?”

“Ninety seconds,” Goalie said.

Another twenty-four or so miles, Guru thought, doing the math in his head. A quick glance at the EW display showed the new Mainstay's radar, and it had gotten a little brighter, but the rest of the display was empty. No fighter or SAM radars, Guru noted, and that was always a good thing. “Roger that,” he replied.

The Texas Hill Country flashed by beneath Mustang Flight as it headed west, with the two Weasels just above the Es, while the two RAF F-4Js brought up the rear. “One minute,” Goalie called.

“Copy, one minute,” Guru replied. He shot another glance at the EW display. Other than the Mainstay, still clear.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie said.”

“Roger that. Give me the count.”

“Copy. Coming up on fifteen seconds. Mark.”

“Call it.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “Turn in ten...Now five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned north, as the rest of the flight followed, and now it was just over a minute's flight time to Brownwood and the pop-up. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, and stand by.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara called, and the rest did the same.

“Set 'em up,” Guru told Goalie.

“On it,” she replied, working the armament control panel in the rear cockpit. She set up the ordnance, so that everything would release at once. “You're set. All in one.”

“Good girl,” Guru said. “Time to pop-up?”

“Forty-five seconds,” Goalie replied. She took a look at her own EW display. “Mainstay's still there.”

“Hope they learned their lesson this morning,” said Guru. “F-14s got too close...” He picked up his own visual scanning, for there were MiGs out there, and maybe transports or helos.

“Same here,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds.” Eight miles to go....

“Call it at ten.”

“Got it. Brownwood coming up,” she called.

Guru looked ahead, and there was Brownwood, right in front. “Time to pull?”

“In ten...Five, four, three, two, one, PULL!”

Guru pulled back on the stick, and called, “Flight,Lead. PULL!”

The rest of the flight did so, and their EW displays lit up. “Lead, Coors,” the Weasel element lead called. “Got some radars here.”

“Coors, Mustang,” replied Guru. “Weasels, go to work!”

“Roger that! MAGNUM!” Coors One-seven called as he shot a Standard-ARM at a SA-4 radar.

The Weasels went in on their SEAD mission, as the city of Brownwood flew by, and the strike flight picked out the airport. “Flight, Lead. Target in sight.”

“All set back here,” Goalie said, tightening her shoulder straps.

“Then let's do it,” Guru said, rolling in on his attack run.


In Brownwood, General Starukhin was not a happy man-as usual. Two days earlier, Marshal Kribov's visit had been spoiled by some American and British aircraft, with the Marshal's Yak-40 VIP transport blasted on the airport ramp, severe damage done to the airport's facilities and the aircraft on the ramp, and four defending MiGs had been shot down, with no loss to the attackers. The Marshal shrugged at the damage reports, writing them off as “one more set of bad news among many”, but the General was more concerned. More things like this happening, and he could forget about being appointed to command the Tank Army Group that Marshal Kribov was thinking of forming. The only serious contender was Suraykin over at 4th Guards Tank Army, and the two couldn't have been more different. Starukhin knew that many in the Army viewed him as a thug, while Suraykin was seen by many as an intellectual in uniform, though no one doubted his aggressiveness, or Starukhin's for that matter. No doubt that swine Chibisov, the Marshal's Chief of Staff and his pet Jew (Starukhin's Anti-Semitism was well known among senior officers, and everyone who needed to know knew that both men cordially despised the other) would whisper in the Marshal's ear that Suryakin be given the command. Though there was a wild card-Bayromov over at 1st Guards Tank Army was seen as an outside contender, and Starukhin, if he didn't get the command, would rather serve under him instead of Suraykin.

Now, with all four divisions of his Army in the process of reconstitution, the General was keen to get his Army back in shape to fight. He knew that the Navy was running into problems in getting its convoys across the Atlantic, but, despite his disagreements with Marshal Kribov-and that little shit Chibisov-getting on their bad side wasn't a good idea. Namely, the tanks, APCs, artillery, and SAMs that his Army needed would go to Suraykin's Army, and that was the last thing Starukhin wanted.

The General got up from his desk at headquarters-the City Hall, intending to visit his independent air-assault battalion, the 899th, when the sirens began to sound. Instead of going to the shelter in the basement, Starukhin's first instinct was to head for the roof and watch. Grabbing his binoculars, and dragging his own Chief of Staff, he headed for the roof to see the air show-his Air Force Liaison's phrase-for himself.


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 down on its bomb run. He saw the Weasels going in, and watched as a HARM missile took down a Firecan (57-mm) AAA radar, but the flak was still coming up. Guru ignored the 23-mm and 37-mm, while the 57s were less accurate now that the radar was out, but they kept shooting anyway. As Guru came in, he picked out the North Ramp, and spotted some aircraft parked out in the open, and tiny specks running to them. They were trying to get their alert birds airborne, he knew. You've got guts, but not for long, was his thought as he lined the planes up in his pipper. As Guru approached bomb release, he recognized the aircraft-or thought he did. MiG-29s. What were they doing here? No matter.... “Steady....Steady...And..And....HACK!” He hit his pickle button, sending his twelve Rockeye CBUs on their way. Guru then pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did so to give the flak gunners and MANPADS operators a harder time in lining him up. Once clear, Guru made his call, “Lead off target.”


“Sookin sin..” Starukhin muttered. Son of a bitch. He and his Army had been in America since the invasion, and the General knew all too well that the USAF knew its business in putting bombs on target. Starukhin watched through his binoculars as Guru's F-4 made its run, and released its bombs. To Starukhin, the CBUs going off looked like several thousand firecrackers-then followed by at least four larger detonations, then another two. Parked aircraft and a couple of fuel trucks, he thought. He turned to his SAF liasion officer, and shot a nasty scowl.

The man merely replied, “They're good, Comrade General.”

“Too damn good,” Starukhin muttered as a second F-4 came in.


“SHACK!” Goalie yelled from 512's back seat. “We've got multiple secondaries!”

“How many?” Guru asked as he jinked right to avoid a SAM-probably an SA-4, he thought-that came by on his left. Then he jinked left again.

“Two hands needed to count,” she replied.

“Good enough,” said Guru as he jinked one more time, then headed due north for the fence.


Kara rolled 520 in on her bomb run. “Two's in hot!” She called as she went in. Kara, too, saw the Weasels at work, and the flak. Ignoring the latter, she saw the CO make his run, and the secondaries that resulted. Good run, Boss, she thought as she picked out the south ramp, and several MiGs parked there. She, too, saw specks running to the aircraft, and knew right away the Russians-or East Germans-were trying to get their alert aircraft up. Not today, Kara said to herself as she lined up several aircraft in her pipper. MiG-23s by the looks of them..... “Not your day....Steady...Steady.....Steady....HACK!” Kara hit her pickle button, releasing her dozen Rockeyes. Once the ordnance was gone, she pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as she did. Once clear of the target, Kara made her call, “Two off safe.”

General Starukhin shook his head as he watched Kara's F-4 come over, then go on its bomb run. He watched as the flak gunners kept up their fire, and the SAM boys did their thing, but Starukhin did notice the other F-4s overhead, firing missiles when a SAM launcher did launch. He turned to the SAF officer with him, who nodded.

“Antiradar missiles, Comrade General.”

Starukhin nodded back, and saw Kara's bomb run finish-leaving more CBUs going off, and several aircraft exploding in its wake. He grimaced, but at least the Americans were going after the air force and not his Army. Then the General turned, and saw another F-4 coming in.


“BULLSEYE!” Brainiac's shout came over 520's IC. “Multiple secondaries back there!”

“How many?” Kara wanted to know as she kept jinking. First to the left as a SAM flew past on the right, then back right as another one-this one probably a shoulder-fired SA-7 or SA-14, went by on the left.

“Several, and they're big and good!”

“I'll take those,” said Kara as she picked up the CO's bird.


“Three's in!” Sweaty called as she came in for her run. She saw Kara's pullout and the secondaries left behind, and smiled beneath her oxygen mask. Sweaty, too, saw the flak coming up, and ignored it, concentrating on the bomb run. She picked out the field hangars on the north side of the ramp, and decided to aim just short, and walk some of her bombs amongst the parked aircraft and into the hangars. Sweaty made her adjustments, lining up on a couple of fighters. MiG-23s by the looks of them. Good. “Steady....And...And....Steady....NOW!” She hit the pickle button, sending a dozen Mark-82 five hundred-pound bombs down onto the field below. Sweaty then pulled up, applying power and jinking as she pulled away, giving the flak gunners and any MANPADS shooters a harder target. Once clear, she made the call. “Three's off safe.”


“Of all the...” Starukhin growled as Sweaty's F-4 went in on its run. He knew the AA gunners were Voyska-PVO and thus not under his command, but he growled at them as if they were. The AA fire was close, but not close enough to the American aircraft as they went in, and when Sweaty's plane pulled up, the General watched as a dozen bombs exploded in its wake. Two fireballs erupted as bombs landed on parked aircraft, then another as a fuel truck exploded, finally, a large explosion as a hangar was blown apart-taking the aircraft inside with it. Starukhin lowered his binoculars, and saw the SAF officer next to him grimace. Then the AA gunners shifted their fire from the escaping plane back towards the south. More Americans coming in....


“GOOD HITS!” Preacher shouted from Sweaty's back seat.

“Secondaries?” Sweaty asked as she jinked to avoid some tracers, then again as a missile-type unknown, but a small one, flew by her right side.

“Multiple and big!”

“We aim to please,” Sweaty smiled beneath her oxygen mask, made one more jink, then picked up the CO's element as she headed north.


“Four in hot!” That was Hoser's call as he came in on his bomb run. He saw Sweaty's run, and the secondaries that followed, and watched as the flak started to come his way. Hoser, too, ignored the flak, concentrating on his run, and he picked out the hangars on the south side of the ramp, despite the smoke and flames left by the others' ordnance. Despite the flak, he lined up the hangars in his pipper, and noticed a parked helo-a Hip, he thought, in front of one of them. You'll do, Hoser thought as he got ready. “Steady....Steady...Ready...And...NOW!” He hit his pickle button, releasing his dozen Mark-82s onto the field below. Hoser then pulled up and away, jinking and applying power, as he cleared the area. Once he was clear of the field, he made his call, “Four off target.”


General Starukhin watched as Hoser's F-4 made its run, and he scowled as the aircraft released its bombs and pulled away, leaving a dozen explosions in its wake, followed by at least two secondary detonations. Starukhin turned, and his Chief of Staff had a very pained expression on his face. Both knew that Brownwood Regional was not under the Army's command, and that the air strikes meant that the Americans might be paying more attention-especially if they discovered the laagers and supply dumps. “Move all of our supply depots to new locations. I don't care how, just get the old ones empty and the new ones properly camouflaged,” Starukhin told his Chief of Staff.

“Right away, Comrade General,” the man said, going back down to issue the orders.

“More coming in, Comrade General,” Starukhin's ADC, a young Captain, called.


“Five's in!” Dave Golen called as he came in on his run. As the IDF Major went in, he tried to pick out the old fuel dump that the recon photos showed as still in use, but he couldn't. So, he adjusted his run, and picked out Runway 17/35 as his target. Golen knew that to fly right down the runway was asking for it, but in order to put a bomb at the intersection of that runway and Runway 13/31, he had no choice. Golen, too, saw the flak coming up, and ignored it as he came in, lining up Runway 17/35 in his pipper, aiming just past the intersection, hoping one or more bombs would hit that portion of the runway. “And...And....Steady....And....NOW!” He hit his pickle button, sending his twelve Mark-82s onto the runway. Golen then pulled up and away, clearing the field as he did so, applying power and jinking to avoid flak. When he cleared the target area, Golen made his call, “Five off target.”


“This has been a bitch of an afternoon,” Starukhin grumbled as Dave Golen's plane went in on its run. He watched as the bombs came off, and unlike the previous strikes, no fireballs erupted into the air, but the General noticed that the bombs had landed on one of the runways. He turned again to his SAF liaison officer, who was now scowling himself. That meant that the field was likely out of commission, unless the bombs had missed that runway intersection. Though the AF man knew, unlike the General, that not all of the GATOR mines had been cleared from the previous strike, as the East Germans had found out the previous day, when a MiG-21 set off a mine as it taxied off a runway. Starukhin turned to look to the south, and noticed another American aircraft inbound. How many of those bastards were there?

“SHACK!” Terry McAuliffe, Golen's GIB, called. “Some good hits!”

“Did we get the runway?” Golen asked as he jinked left to avoid a SAM-this one looking like an SA-4, then right to dodge a pair of MANPADS.

“Cut at least in one place, maybe two.”

“I'll settle for that,” Golen said as he picked up Sweaty's element.


“Six in hot!” Flossy called as she took 1569 down on its bomb run. She, too, ignored the flak and the missiles, and noticed her element lead's run. Flossy saw the bombs on the runway, and where the runway was now cut. Nobody flying from that runway for a day or so, she thought as she picked up her target, the fuel dump east of the field on the east side of U.S. 183. The flak gunners were persistent, but she concentrated on her bomb run, despite the tracers and even an SA-7 type missile that failed to guide. “Come on...Steady....Steady......HACK!” Flossy hit her pickle button, releasing her dozen Mark-82s, then she pulled up and away, and like the others, applying power and jinking as she did. Once she was clear, Flossy made her call. “Six off safe.”


Starukhin watched with his binoculars as Flossy's F-4 went into its run. He saw right away that the aircraft was not attacking the airport, and for a moment, wondered what the target was. Then he saw the bombs come off, and knew right away what target had attracted the pilot's attention. Starukhin watched as the bombs landed in the fuel dump, and multiple orange-red fireballs erupted. “And where is the Air Force?” He asked his SAF liasion officer.

“Stretched, Comrade General,” the man-a Colonel-replied. “And this raid had almost no warning.”

Nodding, Starukhin watched-and he didn't need his binoculars this time, as more explosions tore through the fuel dump. Then two more F-4s came over, but this pair didn't attack. Either fighter cover or reconnaissance, he mused. Then he turned to his Chief of Staff, who had just returned. “This has been a bitch of an afternoon.”

“So it has, Comrade General.”


“BULLSEYE!” Jang shouted from 1569's back seat. “Multiple secondaries!”

“What kind?” Flossy asked, jinking right to avoid an SA-7, then left as an SA-4 flew past, then right again to dodge another SA-7.

“Big and multiple!”

“Good to know,” Flossy replied as she picked up her element lead, and formed up with Dave Golen in Combat Spread.


“Six in and out,” Guru said.

“Now we fly for ourselves,” Goalie added. “Two minutes to the fence.

“Miles?”

“Thirty-two,” replied Golaie.

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Mustang One-seven and one-eight, get your asses down and clear of the target.”

“Roger, Lead,” Paul Jackson called back. “On the way.”

Guru then called the Weasels. “Coors, Mustang. We're outbound for the fence.”

“Copy that, Mustang,” Coors One-seven replied. “MAGNUM!” He fired a HARM at a AAA radar, then called, “We're coming out.” Both Weasels were now out of their antiradar missiles, but they had lived up to the Weasels' reputation of “First in, last out.”

“Roger, Coors,” Guru called. Then he talked to the AWACS. “Warlock, Mustang Lead. Say threats.”

“Mustang Lead, Warlock. Threats bearing Two-zero-zero for fifty. Medium, closing. Both threats are Fulcrums.”

“Copy, Warlock,” said Guru. MiG-29s? Oh, boy. “Two, you with me?”

“Right with you, Lead,” Kara replied.

Guru shot a quick look to the right, and found his wingmate right with him in Combat Spread. “Got visual. Sweaty?”

“At your six, and I've got Hoser,” Sweaty called.

“One-five and One-six right behind Sweaty,” Dave Golen added.

This time, there were no lakes or large hills, as they flew over elements of the 32nd Army. But the Soviets on the ground, surprised to see eight F-4s coming from their rear, held their fire.

“How far to the fence?” Guru asked Goalie as U.S. 84 flew by beneath them.

“One minute,” was Goalie's reply. Sixteen miles.

“Copy,” Guru said, taking a look at his EW display. The Mainstay's strobe was there, along with two aircraft symbols, with the number “29” beneath them. That meant the MiG-29s were out there, radars on and searching. “Warlock, Mustang. Say bandits?”

“Mustang, Warlock,” the controller called. “Bandits bearing Two-one-zero for thirty. Medium, closing.”

Guru did the calculations in his head. They were now forty-five seconds to the fence,and there was no way the MiG-29s would catch up to them. “Roger, Warlock. Can you arrange a reception committee if they get too close?”

“Roger that, Warlock,” the controller said. “Rustler Lead, Warlock. Bandits bearing One-eight-five for forty. Medium, closing. KILL. Repeat: KILL. Clear to arm, clear to fire.”

“Rustler Lead copies,” an F-15C flight lead replied, as four F-15s turned south to confront the MiGs.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie advised.

“Got it,” Guru replied. He glanced again at the EW display. The Mainstay signal had gone away, and so had the MiG-29 radars. Either the MiGs had turned their radars off, or, they had turned away.

Unknown to Guru, it had been the latter. The MiGs had picked up the F-15s on their own radars, along with the APG-63 radars on their own Sirena-3 RWRs, and knew that two MiGs and four F-15s didn't mix. Not on this day. At a word from the A-50's senior controller, the two MiGs turned away. The Eagles, low on fuel, didn't pursue.

“Fence in when?” Guru wanted to know.

“In ten...now five, four, three, two, one, MARK!” Goalie said as the twin concrete ribbons of I-20 appeared.

Once clear of the freeway, Guru made his call. “Flight, Lead. Music off and IFF on, out.”

With the ECM off and IFF on, it should be clear to the Army's air-defense pukes that they were friendlies. Should be, everyone knew. Then the flight climbed to altitude and formed up with the tankers for their post-strike refueling. Once tanked up, the Weasels broke off and headed for Reese, their FOB, while Mustang Flight headed for Sheppard.

When they got there, the flight was fourth in the pattern, behind two Marine flights, a 335th flight, and behind them was the eastbound C-141. When it was their turn to come in, the flight came in and landed. As they taxied away, the news crew was filming them, as usual.

“Don't they ever quit?” Guru asked Goalie.

“If they're not filming us, they're not doing their job?” Goalie wondered.

“Maybe,” Guru said as he popped his canopy, and Goalie did the same.

The flight taxied to its dispersal, and the pilots made for their individual revetments. When Guru taxied 512 to its revetment, Sergeant Crowley was waiting, and guided the CO in, then gave the “Shut down” signal as the ground crew brought the wheel chocks. They then brought the crew ladder as Guru and Goalie went through the post-flight checklist.

Once that was done, pilot and GIB climbed down, and did the usual post-flight walk-around. Only then did Crowley come with a bottle of water each for both crew. “Major, Lieutenant?” He asked. “How'd my bird do?”
“Five-twelve's working like a champ,” Guru said after downing half a bottle. “Said it before: but whatever it is you're doing? Don't change a damned thing.”

“And the bad guys?”

“Tore up a few MiGs on the ground,” Guru said.

“Shit hot, sir!” Crowley beamed.

“Better there than in the air,” Goalie chimed in.

“It is that,” Guru agreed. “Sarge?” He turned to Crowley. “Let's get her ready. We've got time for one more strike.”

“You got it, Major!” Crowley said, turning to the ground crew. “You heard the Major! Let's get this bird prepped for one more strike.”

Guru and Goalie left the ground crew to their work, and headed to the revetment's entrance. There, not only Kara and Brainiac were waiting, but also Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT. “Well?” Guru asked.

“Got some MiGs on the ground,” Kara said. “Too bad, though, ground kills don't count.”

“So did we,” Guru said. “Looked like Fulcrums there-and that wasn't in the intel part of the brief.”

“Was it an FOL?” Goalie wondered aloud.

“Maybe,” Guru said. “Sweaty? How'd things go with you and Hoser?”

“Got the northern hangars,” Sweaty replied. “Along with a couple planes.”

“Same with us,” Hoser added. “Took out the southern hangars, and maybe a grounded plane or two.”

Then Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs arrived, along with the Brits. “Dave? How was it with you and Flossy?” Guru asked.

“Couldn't ID the old fuel dump, so I dropped on the runway. Might have cut it in one or two places,” Golen replied.

“Flossy?”

“No more fuel dump,” Flossy said. “Lots of secondaries going off.”

“Oh, there were,” Jang added. “Big time.”

“Good to know,” Guru said. “Dave, what about you guys?”

Their IDF “Observer” shook his head. “Couldn't ID the old fuel dump, so I dropped on Runway 35.”

“Get the intersection?”

“I think so,” Golen said. “Terry thinks so as well.”

Guru turned to Terry McAuliffe, who nodded agreement. “Flossy?”

“We got the fuel dump,” Flossy grinned.

“Lots of secondaries,” Jang added. “Those MiGs are grounded for a few days.”

A voice spoke up. “One can hope, Major.”

Heads turned, and Sin Licon, the Squadron's Intelligence Officer, was there. “You may think they're grounded, but in a day, two at the most, they'll have their fuel. No thanks to all the oil wells and refineries they control.”

“Lovely,” Kara spat. “Somebody needs to do something about those.”

“Can't do much,” Licon said. “Hitting the storage, that's one thing. But the refineries themselves? Whole different story.”

Sweaty nodded, her hands folded in front of her chest. “Because we need the refineries for postwar reconstruction.” It wasn't a question.

“You got it.”

Guru shook his head at that. This was a complicated war. In any other part of the world, even in Europe or the Middle East, hitting an oil refinery was guaranteed to give the bad guys a real headache. Now, though, targeting had to be selective, so that critical facilities that had been captured in the early days of the war could be retaken intact. Even if it gave the Russians and their lackeys the fuel they needed to run their forces in Texas and Louisiana. “So we take out the POL storage and leave the refineries intact?”

Sin nodded. “That's about the size of it.”

“Lovely,” Guru nodded. “Okay, Dave? You and Susan didn't have much to do.”

“Not that bad,” Dave Gledhill replied. “Even if we didn't get ourselves a kill, at least we kept them from taking off after you guys.”

Susan Napier nodded back. “Just wish those MiG-29s had gotten closer,” she said.

“WHAT?” Kara said. “You guys want another hassle with Fulcrums?”

“Did it the first time,” she grinned, recalling her first kill in-theater, and that had been a MiG-29.

“Be careful,” Sweaty told her. “You might just give Kara an idea.” She was one of only two MiG-29 killers in the squadron-with the CO being the other.

The CO grinned. “She's right.”

“Major,” Sin Licon said to break things up. “Hate to be a party-pooper, but we need to debrief.”

Guru knew it. Had to make the intels happy.... “Okay, people, let's get the debrief out of the way, check your IN boxes, and if you can, get a workout in. Because in an hour or so, we're back at it.”

Hoser scowled. “Unless somebody starts screaming for all the CAS in the world.”

“Don't say it,” Preacher reminded him. The last thing they all wanted was time enough for a couple of back-to-back CAS runs. Not that they didn't mind helping the guys and girls on the ground, but the squadron's preference was to leave CAS to those that lived and breathed the mission.

“Seconded,” Goalie added.

“They're right,” Guru said. “Let's get with it.”

With that, the crews headed to the squadron office to take care of the debrief, for the CO was right: it wouldn't be long until they were back at it.
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  #518  
Old 02-29-2020, 11:02 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Last mission of the day, and it's a CAS run, while 3rd ACR waits for the results:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1505 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser was in his office, having finished up the debriefing a few minutes earlier. A quick check of his IN box found only routine business, and after scanning the papers, the CO knew what to do. He got up, went outside the office, and found the XO's desk, with the XO sitting behind it. “Mark, here. If you have to sign your name and indicate 'For the Commanding Officer,' that's fine with me.”

“Thanks a heap, Boss!” Capt. Mark Ellis said. “And just before the last strike. I've got a brief in fifteen.”

“Then you'd best attack these,” Guru grinned. “Remember, Colonel Rivers did it to both of us-when I was Exec and you were Acting Exec a couple of times.”

“Yeah, when you and Goalie were on R&R,” the XO nodded. “Can't wait to be a CO myself, then I can make my XO's life miserable every once in a while.”

The CO winced. “You want something to happen, after everything you've said?” The Exec had warned Guru repeatedly about not wanting to be CO.

“No, after the war, when I can be a CO the regular way. Enough of this bloody wars and sickly seasons crap,” Ellis said, recalling an old British Army saying about promotions.

Major Wiser nodded. “You're not the only one thinking that,” he said. Even with the war, peacetime was something to be looking forward to. But not until they got to Mexico City, and probably Havana, too. “But we still got a job to do.”

“Yeah,” Ellis said, and the way he said it indicated he was getting tired. The CO noticed it right away.

“Mark, when was your last R&R?”

“Back in April.”

Too long, the CO knew. He'd had an R&R with Goalie in September, spending time in Vegas and Lake Mead, and he'd protested, but Colonel Rivers had insisted on it. Now, he was glad to have had the time, and he knew, Goalie was as well. “Okay, Mark. You need some time off. I'm going to get you on the R&R schedule.”

“Which makes Van Loan Exec, and Kara as Ops-and are you sure you want the latter?” Ellis asked.

“We can deal with that for a couple of weeks,” Guru replied, though he wasn't sure how, given Kara's negative attitude towards paperwork.

“If you say so, Boss,” the XO said, and he saw Guru nod. “In that case, I'd better get this done,” indicating the papers Guru had handed him. “There's a brief coming up.”

“Good man, Mark.” The CO turned to go back to his office, then remembered something. “You get a workout in? Doc's still checking off names.”

“Got one in this morning.”

“One more reason for Doc to be happy. I'm headed that way myself.” The CO went to his office, double-checked his desk, then went to his tent to change into his workout clothes. He then went over to the tent that was the fitness center, where sure enough, he found Doc Waters waiting outside, clipboard in hand.

“Boss,” the flight surgeon said. “Coming for your workout?”

“Since you're checking off names, and can ground anyone for reason,” Guru smiled. “Might as well.” Though he knew Doc had that kind of power, the sawbones rarely used it, much to the CO's relief. Doc signed him in, then the CO went into the tent to get some weight training in. Once that was done, he found himself a treadmill, and got into his run.

While he was running, Guru saw Goalie, Kara, and Sweaty, along with Hoser and Brainiac, come in for their workouts. Good. At least he didn't have to get on their cases about staying in shape, though he knew that the others in the flight were just as serious, as were the RAF people, and several of them were getting their own workouts in as well. He had finished three miles of his usual four when Don Van Loan came into the tent, and the Ops Officer was in a hurry. Van Loan looked around, saw Guru, and came over. “Don, what's up?”

The Ops Officer was direct and to the point. “Got a mission for you, right now.”

Guru turned off the treadmill. “WHAT? Don't tell me it's CAS.”

“I won't, but that's in the frag order,” Van Loan replied, showing the CO the frag order. “Place called Morgan Mill and to the west. East Germans got a little frisky this afternoon, and 23rd ID's been hollering for some fast movers.”

“Where are the Hogs?” Guru asked, referring to the A-10s.

“Busy further west, and before you ask, the A-4s and A-7s are just as tied up. Ivan's doing probes, spoiling attacks, whatever, all along the line from Midland-Odessa to the Brazos this afternoon. Nothing major, Sin Licon says, otherwise they would have hit us with a Scud attack at the very least.”

“If not Fencers or Flogger-Js,” Guru noted, with a reference to the Soviet Su-24 and MiG-27 strike aircraft.

“There is that. Anyway, they want you up in fifteen.”

The CO sighed. “All right.” He nodded to Goalie, and waved her over. When she got to where Guru and Van Loan were talking, she could tell something was up.

“We've got a mission?”

Guru nodded. “CAS, and it's virtually no-notice. Get everyone dressed, and ready to fly. We meet at 512's revetment.”

His GIB winced, but knew the drill. “On my way. Do I get Dave and Flossy's crews?”

“Don?”

“They're going with Mavericks. You do want them, I take it?”

The CO grinned. “You read my mind. Find 'em, and tell them they tag along with us. Same for Dave Gledhill's element.”

“I'll get 'em,” Van Loan said. “Then I get ready to go myself.”

“Take care of yourself, Don. If Mark goes on R&R shortly, you're acting XO.”

“Gotcha, Boss,” the Ops Officer said, then he headed out.

“Time to go?” Goalie asked as Kara, Sweaty, and Brainiac came over.

“It is. Tell everybody to gear up and meet at 512.”

“We're gone,” Kara said, then they went out.

Guru went to his tent to change into a flight suit, then raced to the Men's Locker Room to gear up. He found Goalie waiting outside, as usual. “Ready?”

“Not for CAS, but let's get it over with,” she replied. At least this late in the afternoon, there was only time for one strike.

“Yeah, let's,” said Guru. They went outside, and headed to 512's revetment. Two other flights were already warming up as the CO and Goalie arrived at the revetment, where the other crews in the flight were gathered. “All right, folks, we've got a mission.”

“CAS,” KT spat. “Uh, Boss.”

“No need to apologize, because that's how I feel,” Guru replied. “We head for the tankers, then call in to Tampa. That's the EC-130 airborne command post,” the CO said for the benefit of Dave Gledhill's people. “They give us tasking, then hand us off to a FAC.”

“What's the ordnance load?” Sweaty asked.

“Dave and Flossy have Mavericks, while the rest of us have a dozen Rockeyes,” said the CO. “Plus the usual air-to-air.”

“What's our job?” Squadron Leader Gledhill asked.

“Two things, Dave,” Guru replied. “First, as usual, strike escort. But second, once we're in the target area, you find anyone doing CAS for the bad guys and make them go away.”

“Preferably to a smoking hole in the ground,” Sweaty quipped.

“Right on that,” Guru said. He turned to Dave Golen. “Dave? You and Flossy use your Mavericks to kill any air-defense assets you see. They could have anything, from small-arms fire to SA-7s, then the SA-9s or -13s, then SA-6 or -8.” Guru paused, then added, “And guns.”

“Any ZSU-30s around?” Preacher asked.

“Assume they are,” Guru replied. “That's what Dave and Flossy will kill. MiGs and Sukhois, along with Hinds, are possible, so watch for 'em. Don't engage until after you drop your ordnance. Helping the guys on the ground comes first. Comprende?”

Heads nodded at that, then Kara said, “Got it, Major.”

“All right. Meet at ten grand overhead. We've got an hour of daylight left, so let's make it count. Time to hit it.” Guru clapped his hands for emphasis, and the crews headed to their aircraft.

Guru and Goalie went into the revetment, where the ground crew was hurriedly at work. The Crew Chief, Sergeant Crowley, snapped a salute. “Major? Lieutenant? Five-twelve's ready to rock.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” said Guru. He and Goalie did a quick walk-around, then climbed the crew ladder and got strapped into their seats. A quick preflight in the cockpit followed.

“Glad this is the last one of the day?” Goalie asked. “Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, and check yours,” Guru replied. “And yeah, I am. Arnie?”

“Arnie's up and ready, with the backup INS,” said Goalie, referring to the ARN-101 DMAS. “Just wish it wasn't CAS.”

“You and me both,” Guru said. He gave a thumbs-up to Crowley, who gave the “Start engines” signal.
First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running. Once the warm-up was finished, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A controller came back to him. “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. Mustang Lead rolling.” Guru waved to the ground crew, who raised the integral crew ladder, then gave a thumbs-up to Crowley, who waved to the ground crew himself. They pulled the chocks away from the wheels, then Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal.

Guru released the brakes, then taxied out of the revetment, then turned to the taxiway. As he did, Crowley snapped a salute, and both Guru and Goalie returned it. The F-4 taxied to the holding area, as the rest of the flight followed. When Guru rached the active, he found a Marine F-4 flight, similarly loaded, ahead of them, just taxiing onto the runway.

Guru taxied into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties. The Marines ahead of them thundered down the runway and into the air, and a quick look behind the flight found another 335th flight behind them. He noticed the tail number of the flight lead and winced. Tail number 657 was Major Frank Carson's bird, and the CO wondered if this was the time that the pressure building on the man was going to pop. Because if it did....Or, the man would do something stupid and get himself killed-and maybe his GIB, too. In that case, he dreaded the letter-writing to follow, especially to Carson's blue-blood father. Then it was time. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Mustang Lead, Tower. clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are calm.” The Tower Controller replied.

“Roger, Tower.” Guru taxied onto the runway, and Kara followed in 520. A final cockpit check followed, then both 512's and 520's crews exchanged thumbs-ups. After that, Guru called the tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

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

“Ready?” Guru asked his GIB.

“All set back here,” Goalie replied.

“Canopy coming down,” said Guru as he pulled his canopy down and locked it. He heard Goalie do the same, then checked to his Five O'clock. Kara and Brainiac had done the same. All was ready.

“Let's go,” Goalie said.

“Yeah, let's.” Guru replied. He firewalled the throttles, then released the brakes. Five-twelve then thundered down the runway and into the air, with 520 right with them. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty's element, then after that, Dave and Flossy's turn. Finally, the two RAF F-4Js brought up the rear. The flight met up at FL 100, then they headed for the tankers.



Over Central Texas: 1610 Hours Central War Time:


Mustang Flight was orbiting at 15,000 Feet, just south of the I-20. They had met up with the tankers, as usual, then after checking in with the AWACS, had been passed off to Tampa, the EC-130E ABCCC command plane that ran the CAS side of the war. A controller aboard the EC-130 then told them, “Get in line at twenty grand and wait your turn.” And so Mustang got to the back of the line at FL 200 and waited as the flights before them went in.

“If that reporter asks why we hate CAS?” Major Wiser asked over 512's IC. “This is one reason: waiting our turn.”

“Then there's the people who live and breathe the mission,” Goalie replied. She looked out the canopy and noticed the artillery fire down below-and from both sides. “Leave this to the A-10 guys. They can have all of this crap to themselves.”

“Girl, you are preaching to the choir,” Guru replied. They got down past 15,000 down to 14,000, then a minute later, FL 130. “They're moving fast.”

“With the last hour of daylight, like you said?” said Goalie. “Then the Apaches take over.”

“If any are around.”

“Lead, One-seven,” Dave Gledhill's voice came over the radio. “Is it always like this?”

“The waiting, One-seven?” Guru called back. “You should've been here during PRAIRIE FIRE. One time we had to get in line at Flight Level 250 for a CAS tasking.”

In their F-4J, both Gledhill and his pilot, Flight Lt. Paul Jackson, scowled beneath their oxygen masks. Waiting at 25,000 for a turn at CAS? No wonder these Yanks don't care for the mission. They did agree with the 335's CO: leave this to the people who specialize in the mission. “We'll take your word for it, Lead.”

Guru chuckled underneath his oxygen mask. “Some of 'em will get used to it.”

“What?” Goalie asked as they went down to 12,000.

“CAS,” the CO said. “Dave told me some of his people are staying here once they get to San Diego. Those folks go to Kingsley Field and the RTU. They get to learn the E.”

“Their lucky day,” Goalie grinned beneath her own mask. “Exchange duty?”

“He didn't say, but that's my bet.” Then after a call from Tampa, they got down to 11,000, then thirty seconds later, down to FL 100.

“Lead, Two,” Kara called. “They're moving fast with this. Sure they just want one mission out of us?”

“Don't say it, Two,” Guru replied. That was the last thing he-or anyone else up right now-wanted. A CAS run with little or no sunlight. Leave that to the Apache drivers and the NVG-equipped A-10s.

“Mustang Lead, Tampa,” the ABCCC called. “Contact Covey Two-five-five.” Covey was a FAC.

“Roger, Tampa,” Guru said. “Covey Two-five-five, Mustang Lead checking in.”

“Mustang Lead, Covey,” the FAC called. He was flying in an OA-10 over the battle area between Morgan Mill on U.S. 281 and Huckabay on State Route 108. “Say aircraft and type of ordnance please.”

“Covey, Mustang has four Foxtrot-Four Echoes with twelve Rockeyes each bird, two Echoes with six Rifle shots per bird, and two Juliets with full air-to-air.”

“Roger, Mustang. Your target is a regimental-sized unit, with moderate surface-to-air threat. Be advised bad guys are Libyans.”

“Cove, Mustang Lead. Can you mark the target area?” Guru asked the FAC. It was always good to know where the FAC wanted the ordnance.

“That's affirm,” Covey called back. “Bad guys are east of the town of Huckabay, with East Germans to the west of the town.”

Guru nodded in his cockpit. Libyans...Thought they were down in the Nicaraguan sector. No matter...We can kill them there or kill them here. “Roger, Covey. Say surface-to-air threat. Any Zulu-Sierra-Uniform Three-Zeroes around?”

“Mustang, Covey. Regimental level threat, and negative on the Three-zeroes.”

“Roger that. Rifle armed birds ready to go in, then the rest of us. One pass only, south to north.”

“Your call, Mustang,” Covey replied. “Marking the target area.”

Guru watched as an A-10 rolled in and, despite the Triple-A and shoulder-fired missiles, fired several WP rockets. “That's your target area.”

“Copy that,” replied Guru. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, and music on.” That meant to arm weapons and turn on their ECM pods. “Mustang One-five and One-six, take your rifle shots. Then the rest of us go in.”

“Roger, Lead,” Dave Golen in One-five replied. “Going in hot.” Then “Rifle” calls came from Golen's and Flossy as they took their Maverick shots. Then came the call, “Mustang One-five is Winchester.” That meant “Out of ordnance.”

“Mustang One-six is Winchester,” Flossy added a few seconds later.

“Roger that,” Guru called. “You two, get clear. One-seven and One-eight, go TARCAP. Rest of you, on me.”

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

Goalie had anticipated that, and worked the armament control panel in the rear cockpit. “All set back here. Everything in one pass.”

“Good girl,” Guru said. “Let's go.” He rolled 512 in on the attack run.

East of Huckabay, on State Route 108, the Commander of the Libyan 6th Mechanized Brigade was actually pleased. His brigade had been transferred from the Nicaraguan II Corps sector to the East Germans, and had been placed under East German command for this mission, which was a spoiling attack into the Americans' III Corps. Similar attacks were going all over the Front, he had been told, and when the Soviets got into it, they attracted the American A-10s and most of their other ground-attack aircraft. Which meant his brigade, and an East German Motor Rifle Regiment, had an easy time of it from the air as they pushed into the sector held by the American 23rd Mechanized Infantry Division. They and the East Germans had brushed aside a few outposts, and were now getting ready to repel the inevitable American counterattack.

The Libyan Major (about as high as one could go in the Libyan military without getting too close to the Leader, Colonel Qaddafi (who had abolished ranks higher than Colonel), knew, though, that things were tough for the Socialist Forces in general and the Libyan contingent in particular. The American Sixth Fleet routinely bombed targets in Libya from their carriers, and ports had been mined-either by aircraft or submarines, and coastal targets had even been shelled by battleship and cruiser guns. That meant that shipping new equipment from home was now out of the question, though replacement personnel came by air, and that was less of a problem. Even so, the equipment being shipped from the USSR was having a rough time getting to America, he had been told by the East Germans, though thanks to Colonel Qaddafi, his brigade had been reequipped to his satisfaction. Two battalions with T-72G tanks, and two mechanized battalions with BMP-2s (both coming from the Martin Factory in Czechoslovakia), an artillery battalion with 2S1 122-mm SP guns and a RM-70 MRL battery (also from Czechoslovakia), and an air defense battalion with ZSU-23-4s and Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher) SAMs. While the equipment was as good as Colonel Qaddafi could buy-even with the war, the personnel replacements were another matter.

While some of the replacements had come from the hospital, and a lucky few had escaped the disaster in Colorado, what many called the Pueblo Cauldron, most were shipped from Libya, and their training left much to be desired. Not to mention that many of them were university students whose deferments had been rescinded, and most of that lot certainly didn't want to be here. The exceptions, though, were giving him some problems, for they were from the Jamiriyah Youth Movement, and their zeal was troubling to the Major. They were wild-eyed, idealistic, and thought that whatever was in Colonel Qaddafi's “Green Book” would solve whatever difficulties they encountered. As for the others? There had been a trickle of desertions, the Major knew, and he also knew that if his brigade took a drubbing, that trickle might become a flood.

Now, as he looked around at his brigade command group, he noticed two aircraft off to the south, and missile trails coming from them. Within two minutes, six of his brigade's vehicles had been destroyed, and his air-defense commander was on the radio, reporting that three of their Shilkas, two Strela-10 launch vehicles, and the BTR-60 belonging to his deputy had been hit. At the same time, the two aircraft came overhead, and he recognized them as American F-4 Phantoms. A quick glance to the south saw smoke trails in that direction, and growing closer. Air strike coming in, he saw at once. “AIR ATTACK WARNING!” The Major shouted, then he jumped into a roadside ditch. That was safer than being in a vehicle....


“Lead's in hot!” That was Guru's call as he took 512 down on the bomb run. He spotted what looked like tanks to the northeast of the town, or what had been the town, of Huckabay. You'll do, Guru thought as some flak began to come up at him, not just from the Libyans, but the East Germans to the west. Ignoring the tracers after looking to see if any were the basketball-sized ones, and relived at not seeing any, the CO picked out some tanks and lined them up in his pipper. Should have stayed back in Libya, he said to himself as the tanks grew larger as he descended. “Steady...Steady...And.....NOW!” Guru hit his pickle button, sending a dozen Mark-20 Rockeye CBUs down onto the Libyans below. He then pulled up and away, applying power and jinking to avoid flak as he cleared the area. Then he made the call, “Lead's off safe.”

“Mother of Allah..” the Libyan Major muttered as Guru's F-4 flew over. The aircraft hadn't picked the command group as a target, but had clearly seen something to the north, and the Major poked his head above the ditch to watch just as the CBUs came off the F-4. Several thousand firecrackers seemed to be going off as the CBUs exploded, and some of them found targets, for there were a number of fireballs erupting, and the Major knew right away who had been hit. The 62nd Tank Battalion was there, and that American had just found some of his tanks. The Major shook his head, then someone pulled him back into the ditch, for American planes didn't attack alone.


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

“How many?” Guru asked as he continued jinking, watching as a SAM, either a SA-9 or SA-13, flew by on the right. He jinked right, then left, as another SAM flew above the aircraft, then he dropped low.

“Several, and they're good.”

“Suits me,” the CO said as he set course north.


“Two's in!” Kara called as she took 520 down onto the Libyans below. She saw the CO's run, and decided to add to it, noting that a number of tanks were still unscathed. That wouldn't do, and she picked out a company's worth of armor on the right. Kara, too, ignored the flak coming up, and kept her focus on the bomb run. Okay, you should've stayed in Qaddafi-land, she thought as bomb release approached. Lining up on some T-72s, she got ready. “And.....Steady...Steady...And....HACK!” Kara hit her pickle button, releasing her own Rockeyes, then she pulled up and away. As Kara did, she applied power and began jinking, to give a harder time to the flak gunners and SAM operators below. When she cleared the area, she called, “Two's off target.”


“This isn't happening,” the Major heard someone in the ditch say. He turned, and it was his political leadership officer, not unlike a Soviet Army Political Officer, and this chap was Tripoli's eyes and ears in the brigade. The Major wasn't happy with this puppy, who seemed to be too idealistic, and it showed, with the man having promised the men that they would be in Chicago before the year was out. Shaking his head at that, the Major heard Kara's F-4 come over, and he was relieved that the command group wasn't a target. He lifted his head out of the trench, and saw the same sight as with the first plane. CBUs raining down on the 62nd Battalion's position. Among the firecrackers going off were a number of fireballs going up as tanks took CBU hits and exploded. Of all the....The Major then saw a ZSU-23-4 turn its turret back south, and right away, he ducked back into the ditch as the AA gun fired.


“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac called from 520's back seat.

“How good?” Kara asked as she continued jinking, dodging a shoulder-fired missile on the left, then an SA-9 or -13 on the right. Libyans or no, these guys were persistent.

“Several tanks good.”

“I'll take those,” Kara replied as she picked up the CO's smoke trail, then the CO's bird itself.


“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called as she came down on her bomb run. As she came in, she noticed what looked like towed artillery pieces setting up, and decided to hit those. Sweaty, too, ignored the flak that was coming up, and even a couple of shoulder-fired missiles that failed to guide, as she picked out her target. You are mine, she thought as the guns and prime movers grew larger as she closed in. “Steady...Steady....And...And....HACK!” Sweaty hit her pickle button, and a dozen Mark-20 CBUs came off the racks, falling onto the Libyan artillerymen below. Like the CO and Kara, she, too, applied power and pulled up and away, jinking as she did to avoid flak and to make the SAM operators try harder to lock her up. Once clear, Sweaty made her call, “Three off target.”


“Here we go again,” the Major muttered as the AA gunners opened up again, then came the rumble of a jet as Sweaty's F-4 came in on its run. He lifted his head, and saw the CBUs come off the aircraft as it came over. The Major knew what the target was even before the first bomblets exploded, for the F-4 had overflown his artillery battalion. Then came the explosions as the bomblets found targets, hitting the one battery that was already set up and ready to fire. Guns, prime movers, and stored ammunition all went up, followed by sympathetic detonations as more of the artillery ammunition was set off. Ducking back into the ditch as shrapnel flew in all directions, the Major wondered what else could go wrong this afternoon. The sound of more AA fire answered that question, for that meant another American aircraft was coming in.


“BULLSEYE!” Preacher yelled from Sweaty's back seat. “Multiple secondaries!”

“What kind?” Sweaty asked. She, too, kept jinking, dodging some tracer fire, then a SA-9 or -13.

“Big and multiple!” Replied the ex-seminary student turned GIB.

“Good enough,” Sweaty grinned beneath her oxygen mask as she headed north.


“Four in hot!” Hoser called as he came in on his run. He saw Sweaty's run, and the multiple secondaries that resulted from it, and began looking for a suitable target. KT, in the back seat, spotted a group of vehicles to the east of the secondaries, and called them out. They'll do, Hoser thought, rolling in on them, and lining the vehicles up in his pipper. He, too, ignored the flak as he came in on the bomb run, and identified the vehicles, or so he thought. Command group? Looks like it. They'll go away, he said to himself as Hoser lined them up. “And.....Steady...And....And.....HACK!” Hoser hit his pickle button, releasing his Rockeyes onto the Libyans below. After release, he pulled up and away, jinking just as the others did to avoid flak and SAMs. Once he got clear, he made his call. “Four off target.”

“Of all the...” the Libyan Major muttered as the AA guns opened up again, then he heard Hoser's F-4 come in. This time, it was right overhead, and he knew what the target was. Ducking his head, he heard the CBU bomblets going off, then explosions-very close, followed by screams. Only after the last of the CBU detonations did he lift his head, along with the others in the ditch, and he frowned. Most of the vehicles in the Brigade Command Group had been hit and were either burning or had already exploded. One man got up past him and shouted to some soldiers who were getting up from the ditch on the other side of the road, then there was an explosion as the Poltical Officer stepped on a bomblet. The man didn't even have a chance to scream as the bomblet blew him apart. At least the Americans have done me a favor, the Major thought. Then he began issuing orders. Time to sort this mess out, and see what would come of it.

East of the brigade, had he known, the Major would have been properly frightened. For the 3rd ACR was waiting to move. The 2nd Squadron's Major Monica Vansen was sitting on top of her M-1 tank, eyes glued to the scene, and watching through binoculars as the zoomies did their thing. Grinning, she turned to her new XO, who had commanded G Troop at the same time she had Eagle, before both had been promoted. “When Regiment cuts the leash, we go down there and tear the Libyans a new asshole.”

“Suits me, Ma'am,” the XO replied. “And when we're done with them?”

“Do the same to some East Germans west of Highway 108.”

“I like the way you talk, Ma'am.” Then the XO headed to his Bradley, while she got on her radio and passed the word. Come on, Colonel, she said to herself. Turn us loose.


“GOOD HITS!” KT yelled from Hoser's back seat.

“We have secondaries?” Hoser asked as he jinked, dodging some tracers, then an SA-7, and after that, an SA-9 or -13.

“Several,” KT replied.

“Good enough,” Hoser said as he picked up Sweaty's bird.


“Four in and out,” Guru said in 512. “Time to fly for ourselves. One-seven and One eight, get your asses clear of the target area.”

“Roger, Lead,” Paul Jackson replied. The two RAF F-4Js dropped down low and headed north in Combat Spread. As they did, the two RAF birds drew some flak, and even a missile, but both cleared the target area. Once clear, they picked up the rest of the strike flight, and watched as Dave Golen and Flossy joined them.

“Copy,” Guru said. “Covey, you have any BDA?”

“Mustang, Covey. You have a four-decimal-zero. Nice work, fella,” the FAC replied. “Maybe we can do this again sometime.”

“Maybe,” replied Guru as the flight formed up. “Flight, Lead. Let's head for Texaco.” That was radio code for the tankers.

Mustang Flight then headed for the tanker track over Mineral Wells, then headed for Sheppard. When they got back, they were third in line, behind two other 335th flights. When it was their turn, the flight came in and landed, and as they taxied off the runway to their dispersal, Guru noticed the XO's flight and one other had been ahead of them. And when they got to the squadron's dispersal area.... “Well...guess who didn't get a case of the stupids,” he snorted as they taxied past the revetment for 657.

“Frank?” Goalie asked matter of factly. She shook her head. “He got lucky. This time.”

“Not disagreeing with you,” Guru replied. Sooner or later, Frank was going to pop, and the question was when, and what the fireworks would be afterwards.

The flight taxied to their revetments, and when Guru took 512 to its revetment, Sergeant Crowley and the ground crew were waiting. After taxiing in and shutting down, pilot and GIB went through the post-flight checklist, while the ground crew brought the crew ladder. “Four and done for the day,” Guru said with relief. “And that's nearly sunset.” The sun was low in the western horizon, signaling another day finished.

“Good,” Goalie said as she popped her canopy and Guru did the same. “I've done my share today.”

“We all have,” Guru nodded as he climbed out of the cockpit and Goalie followed. A quick post-flight walk-around followed, then Sergeant Crowley was waiting with bottles of water for both of them. “Sarge,” Guru said. “Five-twelve's humming right along. Get her ready for the morning.”

“Will do, Major!” Crowley beamed. “How'd she do?”

“Made some Libyans go away,” Guru replied after a swig of water.

“Or at least, reconsider their choice of vocation,” Goalie added. “Those who lived, that is.”

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

Guru laughed. “Sarge, you can use that kind of language around here,” he said. “Just get her prepped.”

“You got it, Major!” Crowley said. “All right guys, you heard the CO. Let's get this bird ready for the morning!” And the ground crew set to work with a will.

Guru and Goalie headed to the revetment's entrance, where Kara, Brainiac, Sweaty and Preacher were waiting. “Well, how'd it go with you? Got some tanks for us.”

“Dropped near where you dropped, and got some more,” Kara replied as Dave Golen, Flossy, their GIBs, and the RAF crews arrived.

“Good job,” Guru said. “Sweaty?”

“Made some guns go away, as in up,” grinned Sweaty.

“Then came back down, in pieces, and their ammo went up as well,” Preacher added.

“Nice work,” the CO nodded. “Hoser??

“Hit some command tracks,” Hoser said. “Not sure whose they were.”

“Maybe we got their CO,” KT ventured.

A voice came up. “Maybe.” It was Sin Licon, the Squadron's Intel Officer. “Army may let us know. Or maybe not.”

“You never can tell with those pukes,” Kara said.

“Ain't that the truth?” Flossy said. “Anyway, we had our Rifle shots.”

“How'd those go?” Guru asked.

Dave Golen replied, “Twelve shots, ten hits. Two went dumb.”

“Get any air defense tracks?”

“Several,” Flossy replied. “Two of mine, though, went dumb like Dave said,” she spat.

“I'll talk with Kerry Collins,” Guru said. Capt. Kerry Collins was the de facto Ordnance Officer. “See what happened, and have him check the Mavs we still have.”

“Her bad luck,” Kara added.

“Yeah,” the CO nodded. “And our British cousins?”

“Came for the dance, and no one wanted to tango,” Dave Gledhill said. “Too bad.”

“There's always tomorrow,” Kara said. She was still looking for kill number ten, which would make her, for all she knew, the USAF's first female double ace-and extend her lead in kills over the rest of the squadron. Including the CO....

“There is,” said Flight Lt. Susan Napier, Dave Gledhill and Paul Jackson's wingmate.

“Sin,” Guru asked his intel. “Anyone still out?” Then the rumble of jets answered that question.

“Ops Officer's flight, and that should be them,” Licon replied as six F-4s, four USAF Es and two RAF Js, came into the pattern. Five of them broke away and came in to land, while the sixth made another go-around, and did a pair of victory rolls, before coming in to land.

“Somebody got a pair,” Sweaty noted. “Who?”

The F-4J in question taxied in, and the pilot and GIB had their canopies popped. As they taxied in, the pilot showed two fingers to signal kills, as Dave Gledhill noted the serial: ZE 359. “That's Karen McKay.”

“Well, now,” said Guru. “Anyone in your unit get two in one hop?”

“It's been a while,” Gledhill admitted. “One of the crews we lost got two Badgers in one mission.”

“Okay, we'll find out what she splashed at the Club,” Guru said. “Before we do that, we need to get debriefed, check our IN boxes, and then we can go get a little crazy.”

Kara looked at her CO. “Only a little?”

“Tomorrow night? We've got a stand-down day after tomorrow, so we can let it out,” Guru grinned.

“And no Twelve-Hour,” Brainiac added.

“Unless you're sitting alert,” Sweaty reminded everyone.

“There is that,” said Guru. “Come on, let's get going.”

With that, they headed into the squadron's office to get the debriefing taken care of, then it would be time to let things rip in the Club.
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  #519  
Old 02-29-2020, 11:07 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And winding things up in the O-Club, it's "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow they may not tell us from what's left of the aircraft."

Again, comments and questions are welcome!


335th TFS CO's Office, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1655 Hours Central War Time:


In his office, Major Matt Wiser sat behind his desk, getting the last of the day's paperwork out of the way. What had filled his IN box had been annoying, but this was stuff that the CO had to handle, instead of leaving it to the XO to take care of. Once the armchair warriors had been satisfied, with the OUT box being full, the CO got up and had a look outside his office window. It was getting dark, and with that, no more flying for the day. Oh, both the 335th and the Marines had people sitting Zulu Alert, for air defense, but other than that, the flying day was done. He was about to head on over to the Officer's Club when there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself.”

The XO came in, clipboard in hand. “Got a few things for you, before knocking off,” Capt. Mark Ellis said.

“Okay, Mark, lay it on me,” Guru said.

“First, we'll have twenty-two birds for the morning. Two are getting pulled for hundred-hour checks, and the two new birds from Japan will fill in.”

“Lovely,” the CO nodded. “Maintenance wants an early start?”

“That's what Kev O'Donnell said.” Capt. Kevin O'Donnell was the Squadron's Maintenance Officer. One of the three nonflying officers in the squadron, with the flight surgeon and intelligence officer the other two, and all three could not be ignored or have the CO take their opinions lightly-which did happen in other squadrons....Not in the 335th.

“All right, and let me guess: half the squadron's getting the same thing day after tomorrow.” That was when weather was coming in, and there would be a stand-down for weather, and getting caught up on maintenance.

“Four-decimal-zero, Boss,” Ellis replied.

Guru nodded. “That's that. What else?”

“Two new crews coming as well,” the XO said, handing the CO a message form. “Coming tomorrow.”

“As long as they're not all FNGs,” the CO commented. “I'd love to get a couple of seasoned hands, even if they're fresh out of the hospital and requalified.”

Ellis nodded. “To be wished for,” he said. “Oh, word on Airman Kellogg's family.” He was referring to an airman whose family was missing-brother in the Navy who knew where, sister having fled Austin, and parents who had stayed behind as he and his brother had fled ahead of the invasion.

“Anything definite?”

“No, nothing on the siblings,” Ellis replied. “Chief Ross, though, has a contact in OSI, and is checking. But the parents? Different story.”

“Uh-oh...” Guru said. “I don't like the sound of this.” Though I expected it, he thought. The last thing he wanted was to tell the underage airman his parents were dead.

The Exec didn't either. “Same here. Ross talked to Ken Patrick-he's Ryan Blanchard's Master Sergeant.” Captain Ryan Blanchard ran the detachment from the 4th Security Police Squadron attached to the 335, and the ex-Deputy Sheriff was another nonflyer that the CO trusted implicitly. “He's got contacts with the Army and the local Resistance people. One of his army contacts came through, and said that the parents' names are on a list that the local KGB and PSD put together.”

“Let me guess: a list of 'Reactionary and Counter-Revolutionary Elements'?”

“The same. No word on their fate, just that they were on the list.”

Guru thought for a moment. That meant they were either in a labor camp or dead. “Any word on that mass grave?” He was referring to a mass grave near what had been the town of Thornberry, where many of those who had “Disappeared” during the occupation had been found.

“Not much, other than Ivan buried the bodies without any ID on them. They were forced to strip before being bound and shot,” said Ellis. “You want to talk to Kellogg?”

“No, not tonight,” Guru said. “I'll fill him in tomorrow,” the CO decided. “He does have a right to know.”

Ellis nodded. “Other than that? Newspapers came in on the eastbound C-141, and we'll get them in the Club. As for the last thing? Weather still unchanged. Storm due in late tomorrow night, and all the next day.”

“So we do get our stand-down,” the CO said, and Ellis nodded again in reply. “Good.” He checked the clock on the office wall. It read 1705. “Now we're off the clock. Let's hit the Club.”


When the CO and XO got to the Officer's Club tent, they found the place already rocking. Word about Karen McKay's kills had gotten around, the two found out, and it wasn't that often that someone from MAG-11 got two kills in one mission. The last time had been during the Su-24 raid, when Colonel Brady himself had a MiG-23 and an Su-24 to his credit, Guru recalled. And now one of their allies had matched it.

Guru and Ellis got to the bar, and found Smitty, the barkeep, there as usual. “Smitty, what have you got today?”

The barkeep grinned. “Olympia, Bud, Michelob, some Sam Adams, and the first shipment of Coors since they got going again.”

“Sam Adams for me,” the CO nodded.

“Bud here,” the XO added.

Smitty produced the bottles, and after paying him, the two noticed Flight Lt. Karen McKay going through a wave of hands to a number of AF and Marine aircrew, showing how she had gotten her two kills. “Wonder what she splashed?” Guru wanted to know.

Just then, his RAF counterpart bellied up to the bar. “Smitty, a Sam Adams,” Dave Gledhill said.
After getting his beer, he turned to watch as McKay downed one beer, then went after another, and started the hand-waving show all over again. “She's on her third.”

“Who were the guys she splashed, Dave?”

Gledhill turned to the 335th CO. “Two Libyans. Not helos, mind you, but Su-22s.”

“Fitters,” Ellis nodded. It wasn't a question. “Let me guess: those Libyans you guys took a crack at called for some help.”

“They probably did,” Gledhill replied, then he took a swig from his own bottle. “Not that she's complaining.”

“No,” Guru said. He waved her over. “So, Flight Lieutenant,” Guru said. “Care to enlighten us on how you did it?” Just then, Colonel Brady came in with two of the Marine squadron commanders. All three came over. “Colonel, here's the woman of the hour.”

The MAG-11 CO nodded. “So we've heard,” Brady smiled. “Congratulations,” he offered his hand. As did the CO of VMFA-134 and VMFA-333, respectively.

After shaking the hands, McKay went on. “Well, it went down like this, sirs.” She began waving her hands-again. “We were covering the Ops Officer's flight-” she nodded in the direction of Don Van Loan, who, as it turned out, was paying for the drinks- “in a TARCAP orbit. Then AWACS warns of bandits, then four Fitters come in as if they're looking for trouble.”

“Russians or East Germans?” Asked -134's CO.

“Neither,” McKay replied. “Green circles on the wings and tail.”

“Libyans,” Colonel Brady noted. “Keep going.”

“Yes, sir,” McKay said. She went on. “They saw us, and jettisoned their bombs. Then they broke into pairs and went after us. Turned into the lead element, did a high yo-yo, then rolled right. They were in a left turn, and I turned in behind them. Got lock on the wingman with a Sidewinder, and shot one off. Flew up his exhaust and blew off his tail. His canopy fires, the seat launches, and there he is in a chute.”

“That's one,” Smitty said. He couldn't help but overhear the talk.

“It was,” McKay grinned. “The leader? He's still in a left turn, then he reverses, then reverses again. Had to go into another high yo-yo, rolled left to keep visual. Then I applied left rudder and went into a power dive and got behind him. Too close for a Sidewinder, so I used the gun pod.”

“When Dave Golen hears this?” Said Ellis. “He's going to slap you on the back-and hard.”

“The Israelis value gun kills most of all,” Guru added. “He might just buy you enough to get drunk.”

“She's halfway there,” Dave Gledhill pointed out.

“One thing at a time-sir,” McKay said. “Anyway, he starts smoking, then he rolls inverted and goes into the ground. No chute.”

“And the other two?” Colonel Brady asked.

“When they saw what happened to the lead pair? They turned and went the way they came. The last of Don's flight calls off target, then we join up on them.”

“Congratulations,” Guru said. “Now, one person who may not be thrilled about this is Captain Thrace. She's top gun in the 335th with nine kills, and I'm her next closest competitor.”

Ellis nodded. “Until now,” he pointed out.

“Until now.”

Just then, Kara came into the O-Club, and had Ms. Wendt, the Aussie reporter who was now attached to the 335th, with her. They were talking about something, and the reporter nodded as they did. “Why's Kara so calm with the reporter?” Ellis asked.

“Good question,” Guru said.

“When are you taking her and her cameraman up, Major?” Colonel Brady asked.

“Day after tomorrow, sir,” Guru replied. “If the weather clears in the afternoon,” he added. “I'm taking the cameraman up, and Captain Thrace has Ms. Wendt in the back seat.”

“Trying to scare her out of here?” Mckay joked.

“She's made of sterner stuff,” said Guru. “She's been through at least one Scud attack and that Su-24 strike, and came through with flying colors.”

“Good luck with her, sir.” McKay said, then she went back to the table where she'd been demonstrating her kills.

“Thanks.”

After she got to the table, McKay found Maj. Dave Golen, IDF, waiting, along with Flossy and their GIBs. When Golen found out her second kill was with the SUU-23 gun pod, sure enough, the IDF Major slapped her on the back, then nearly crushed her with a bear hug. “That answers that,” Mark Ellis observed.

“Sure does,” Guru said, as Goalie and the rest of his flight came in and got their table. It wasn't far from where Karen McKay was holding court. “Colonel, looks like I'll be with my people. And unless I'm wrong, tomorrow's going to be a maximum effort.”

“You're not. Days before stand-downs usually are,” Brady agreed. “You have a good evening, Major.”

“Will do, sir.” Guru then went to his flight's table, and found most of them there, with Kara and Sweaty talking with Karen McKay. “Well? Have a talk with her yet?”

“Who'd she splash?” Goalie asked. “East Germans or Libyans would be my guess.”

“Libyans,” Guru nodded. “Two Fitters. And apart from Colonel Brady on that Su-24 raid, when's the last time anyone flying from here got two kills in one mission?”

Hoser replied, “Our recently-departed friends in F-20s, Boss.”

“Clancy and Pruitt,” KT added. “Those two young pups when they ran into that recon flight with Yeager.”

“Forgot about those guys,” Guru admitted. Then the intel officer came over, with a bunch of newspapers in his hands. “Whatcha got there, Sin?”

“Today's newspapers,” Sin Licon said, just as Kara and Sweaty came back to the table. “What's our double Fitter killer saying?”

“Other than setting a record for getting drunk before Twelve-Hour?” Kara quipped, and there were a few laughs at that. “Not much than what you probably know already. But I got this impression: the flight she engaged? They came in expecting to get shot down.”

Heads nodded at that. Most Libyan aircrew encountered seemed to expect getting splashed. Either they were fatalistic, or just plain knew that they were in inferior aircraft for the most part, and their chances going up against an F-4, let alone an F-15 or F-16. “I'll second that, Boss,” Sweaty added.

“I had that feeling when Karen recounted the story to me and Colonel Brady,” Guru said.

Hearing that, Sin was curious. Off-duty or not, he was still a spook. “What gave you that idea?”

“The wingman didn't maneuver hardly at all, once she got on his tail,” Kara said. “He was like 'Here I am, shoot me.' And she did just that.”

“And the leader?” Sweaty chimed in. “He tried some evasive maneuvering, but kept it in the horizontal. Reversed his turn a few times, but didn't go into the vertical or anything.”

“He did force her to overshoot,” Guru pointed out.

“That, and I'd say that was the minimum he did,” Kara said. “Once she got back in gun range, that was it.”

“And so it was,” Preacher added.

“That's that,” Guru said. “Okay, Sin. What's in the papers?”

L.A. Times for you, Boss,” the Intel said, handing the paper to the CO. “Orange County Register for Goalie.”

“Thanks,” Goalie said as she took the paper.

USA Today for who?” Seeing Kara nod, Licon handed the paper to her. “And Stars and Stripes for Sweaty,” said the Intel.

Sweaty nodded thanks as she took the paper.

“Boss, that....caper you're putting together?” Sin asked. Seeing the CO nod, he added, “If you need anything else, let me know.”

“Will do, Sin,” Guru said. The Intel went to a table with the Ops Officer's flight, while Guru scanned the front page. “Not much happening in the big picture,” he noticed. When the front-page story was about the former Mayor of L.A., Tom Bradley, announcing plans to run for a U.S. Senate seat in California, it meant the war on this day wasn't much. “Our little part was pretty lively.”

“It was,” Kara grinned. “USA Today has something on the protests in West Germany. They had 75,000 in West Berlin, and they were right up against the Wall.”

“What's the reaction from the other side?” KT asked.

“Doesn't say, but they did have banners that could be seen from the watch towers. Telling the guards they were serving a criminal regime, anyone in the East German Army doing the same thing, they should defect, that sort of thing.”

“Got one here,” Sweaty added. “They had 200,000 in Hamburg, and they marched from City Hall to the Russian Consulate.”

Goalie shook her head. “Bet that made the KGB not very happy. There's this,” she said. “Page four, OC Register.”

“What?” Guru asked.

“Seems some tourists in Budapest-they were on a Danube River cruise-reported when they got back to Vienna that they saw an anti-war protest being put down by the Hungarian cops.”

“You sure, Goalie?” Sin Licon asked. He was at a nearby table, but within earshot.

“That's what it says. They said it was several hundred people,” Goalie replied, scanning the article.

“First protest in a East Bloc country since the war?” Kara asked as she went through USA Today.

“That we know of,” Sin Licon reminded them.

Guru nodded at that. “Won't see anything of that sort in East Berlin, I'll bet.”

Kara heard that. “Boss, that's one bet I wouldn't take.”

“You've got that right.” Guru went to another article. “Says here Gary Hart's going to run for the Senate again,”

“That half-brain?” Preacher asked. “'Where's the beef?' that Mondale quipped, and all that?”

“The same, and I doubt Colorado voters are going to be in a good mood: Half of the state was occupied, the Denver siege, all of it. And the kicker's this: he voted against most of the weapons systems we're using right now to fight this war.”

“He have a political death wish or what?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“Guess so.”

Then the restaurateurs came in with dinner. “Folks, it's chowtime. We've got Barbequed chicken or pork chops, and Salisbury Steak. With all the fixin's. Come and get it.”

After people got their meals and sat back down, the CBS Evening News came on from L.A.. “Good evening from Los Angeles,” Walter Cronkite began. “Enemy forces in Central and West Texas launched a series of spoiling attacks against the line held by both U.S and South Korean forces today, but were repulsed. Heavy fighting was reported in places ranging from south of Big Spring and Abeline, to north of occupied Stephenville. Our reporter with the Americal Division, Jim Kerr, formerly from our affiliate KCBS in Los Angeles, leads off.”

“Here, near the town of Huckabay, the Libyans and East Germans came north,” Kerr said. “Only the Americal Division and some Armored Cavalry were waiting.” The camera showed a mix of Americal Division mechanized infantry and some Cavalry troopers engaging the enemy, and off in the distance, the occasional fireball erupted as enemy vehicles took fire and exploded. “But they weren't alone, as the Air Force came into the picture.” Then the camera showed A-7s and F-4s (the former being VA-135, but what the reporter didn't know, he couldn't say, and the latter being both AF and Marine) making their runs, and Libyan vehicles exploded as bombs and missiles found their targets. The reporter then came to a female Cav officer-who was easy to pick out because of the Stetson she wore. “Major, what's next?”

“Go down there once the Air Force does its job, then we tear some Libyans apart. And the East Germans while we're at it,” the Cav Major replied.

“How tough are they?” The reporter asked.

“The East Germans are first-class SOBs, pardon my French,” said the Major. “Libyans? Different story. Some are good, but most of 'em don't want to be here.”

“Thanks, Major, and good luck,” said the reporter. “While we were waiting, two American aircraft ran into some East German or Libyan aircraft, and two of the enemy went down,” Kerr said, and the camera showed first one, then another aircraft falling in flames, to the cheers of the Cav and Americal troopers. Then the Armored Cavalry rolled into the attack. “And now, the Cav is going after the Libyans. Jim Kerr, with the Americal Division, Central Texas.”

“Karen?” Dave Gledhill said. “Looks like you were on the news, even if they got who was flying the Phantoms wrong.”

“Not their fault they couldn't see the roundels from that far below,” McKay cheerfully replied.

After a story about Key West, and how the southernmost town in the U.S was handling being the closest city to Cuba, and seeing locals point out where two POWs had landed a homemade raft after escaping from the island, things shifted to Philadelphia. There, the big story was the continuing investigation into Senator Proxmire's aides, and reported ties two of those aides had to the Cuban DGI.

“If he's got any guts, he'll say he's not going to run for reelection,” Colonel Brady observed.

“He does like his milk subsidies,” VA-135's CO pointed out.

Hearing that, Cosmo grumbled, “Still want to give him a gift membership in the Flat Earth Society.” She, like many others in the astronomy and space science communities, harbored a grudge against the senator, whose anti-NASA views were well known.

“You've got reason,” Guru told his squadron mate.

After a story about life aboard the reactivated cruiser Salem, and old hands' reaction to female sailors reporting aboard, it was one of Ms. Wendt's stories.

“Here, at an air base in a liberated part of Texas, Brigadier General Chuck Yeager brought a new aircraft to this base,” Ms. Wendt said. “The F-20 Tigershark, and those who fly the F-4s here were not so pleased.” Footage of Yeager's arrival and his people followed. The camera focused not only on Yeager, but also on Clancy, Pruitt, and Prada. “When the F-20s got into a fight with some Russians, opinions changed-slightly.” The camera showed the kills displayed on the four F-20s-three of them with red stars, and General Yeager's F-20C with his WW II score of 11.5 Germans, and one Russian from this war. “General, what happened?” She asked Yeager.

The General replied in his West Virginia drawl. “We went up on a demonstration flight, and some Russians crashed the party. We fought, they lost.”

“And General Yeager and the young pilots with him are showing what the next generation of fighters can do,” Wendt said, as the camera showed Clancy, Pruitt, and Prada hand-waving for the camera, with some 335th aircrew paying attention. “Jana Wendt, CBS News, with the U.S. Air Force, Liberated Texas.”

“Well....” Mark Ellis said. “That was interesting.”

“Sure was,” Kara agreed. “You do know some of us have unfinished business with those clowns.” She had vowed to teach that punk Clancy a lesson. Or two, or three, until he got the message.

“Down, girl,” Guru said firmly. “She's right, though.” One of these days...preferably in an F-15E, he said to himself. “So when's the next piece?”

Ms. Wendt smiled. “There's more on him for tomorrow, with that mock dogfight you had with him. Then the piece on your mascot,” she said.

“Good.”

After a Charles Kuralt On the Road story from Columbia, South Carolina, home of Fort Jackson and its Basic Training, the broadcast wrapped. “From all of us at CBS News, good night,” said Cronkite. After the news, AFN showed a rerun of a Chicago Bears-New Orleans Saints game from 1983. “News and football,” Goalie noted. “Hell of a war.”

“Even if no matter how often it's rerun, the Bears win,” Guru said. He got up and went to get some nachos, and while waiting on the order, he noticed Frank talking with Doc and his usual table mates. It was clear to Guru, watching the whole thing, that Frank was doing most of the talking, for the others at the table simply nodded or shrugged their shoulders. He watched as Doc got up and came to the bar. “Doc,” the CO nodded. “How's Frank?”

“Same as always,” Doc said. “Tonight, he's wailing about not getting the F-20 again, and that Article 15.”

“Pretty much it,” the sawbones replied. He got another beer. “He's under a ton of pressure, and he'll snap if he's not too careful.”

“Going to give him a checkup?” Guru asked as his order appeared. He paid, then waited for Doc's answer.

Doc thought for a moment. “I just might.”

“If you can find any reason to ground him, and ship him off for some tests,” Guru reminded him. “You would be doing this squadron a favor.”

“I know, but he's still the poster child for passing a flight physical,” the flight surgeon told the CO. “So far, nothing leaps out.”

Guru knew it, but still.... “Well, given the pressure he's under, see if you can find a reason anyway. Even if it's Emotional Instability,” he said. “Ship him off for some tests, then they shunt him into a desk job for the rest of the war.”

“I'll try, but so far, he's passed every exam with flying colors,” Doc said.

“All you can do,” Guru reminded him, then the CO went back to his table. “Doc's going to try and see if he can find a reason to ground Frank.”

“Good,” Kara spat. “Ship him off and make him somebody else's problem.”

Guru sure didn't want to do that, inflicting Frank on a fellow officer, and yet, it was likely anyway. “Collateral damage,” he said.

“Unfortunately,” Goalie added, sympathizing with her pilot and lover.

“With that, it's time,” Kara said, getting up and going over to the pool table. She first disposed of a Marine ground officer, then a transiting C-130 navigator, followed by the nav's pilot. Seeing that, Mark Ellis came over to the CO's table.

“Boss, looks like she's on a roll again.”

“You noticed,” Guru said, starting on his second beer. “Did you also see the ferry drivers?” He nodded in the direction of a table where the four ferry crews were seated, and yet, talking with some of the 335th's people. “They either know her personally or know about her. No way are they taking a chance.”

“They value their wallets being full,” the XO observed.

“Yeah. And the lead ferry pilot told me that he knows of at least one female who's had to uh, use, Kara's alternative payment plan.”

When he heard that, the XO wasn't the least bit surprised. “We would've found out sooner or later,” he said matter of factly.

Guru nodded. “Surprised it took us this long to find out?” He asked. Then the CO saw two of the RAF Regiment officers head to the pool table. “Uh-oh...now to see how this plays.”

Dave Gledhill came over. “I warned you about the Rockapes,” he grinned. “Now we'll see who's better.”

“Famous last words, Dave,” replied Guru.

One of the Rockape officers laid down his money, then Kara did the same. It didn't take long for the RAF officer to show his skills, and Kara was out $50.00. She went to the bar, got another beer, then went to accept the other challenger. This fellow, though, wasn't as lucky as his friend, and he was soon out $50.00. “One for two,” Gledhill observed.

“This time,” said Guru.

“Fifteen minutes until Twelve-Hour!” Doc Waters called from the bar.

“All right, people!” Colonel Brady announced. “We've got one major item of business to take care of, and it involves one of our RAF visitors.” He nodded at Dave Gledhill. “Squadron Leader Gledhill, will you do the honors?”

“My pleasure, Colonel,” Gledhill replied. “Flight Leftenants Karen McKay and Razor Wilkinson, step forward!”

Both pilot and GIB came front and center, and they knew what this was all about. First double kill scored by a Sheppard-based crew since the big Su-24 raid had been broken up. “We know what this is all about...” she was heard to mutter.

“You two scored our first double kill of The Tigers' Texas deployment,” Gledhill began. “Last mission of the day, so let's hear it.”

“Gladly, Dave,” McKay said. Then the two of them recounted the Fitters coming in, how they got behind the lead element and lined up the wingman, before nailing him with a Sidewinder shot. Then it was the leader's turn, and how he went through the motions of evasive action before McKay got in behind him, and had to use the SUU-23 20-mm gun pod to kill the Fitter.

“My friends!” IDF Maj. Dave Golen stood up. “Back home, you'd be heroes! They would forget you used a missile on the wingman, and got a gun kill!”

“Sidewinders are there, so why not use 'em?” Don Van Loan asked. “It's what they're there for.”

“True, but as we all know, there's no kill like a gun kill,” Golen replied.

“Forgive my element lead,” Flossy said as she stood up. “He's slightly drunk.” Though personally, she preferred using a Sidewinder....

“Or more than slightly,” Jang added, seeing Golen grin.

Colonel Brady smiled. “In that case, here's to the Fitter killers,” he said, raising his bottle, and everyone followed suit. “And drink up! You've got ten minutes until Twelve-Hour.”

That was one order everyone was glad to obey. Ten minutes later, Doc Waters rang the bar bell. “Twelve-Hour now in effect!”

Those flying in the morning turned in their drinks and got something nonalcoholic.

“So, Boss,” Sweaty asked her CO. “What's on tap for the morning?”

“No idea, but day after tomorrow's the stand-down for weather, and I'll bet any amount of money that tomorrow's a maximum effort.”

“CAS?” Preacher asked. “Had enough of that this afternoon.”

“You never know,” KT pointed out.

“That's the sorry truth,” Goalie said. “How many times have we gone on a strike, come back, and find out we're doing a quick turnaround because the Army's hollering for CAS?”

Guru nodded. “Enough,” he said.

Things went on until 2100, when one of the Navy flight surgeons rang the bar bell. “Aircrew curfew now in effect!”

Those flying in the morning headed off to Officer Country, for it wouldn't be long until 0430 and another day of flying beckoned.
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Old 03-01-2020, 09:46 AM
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Just a possible flavoring bit should it come up:

American pilots and aviators have a slang, "Fox Four." This means you intend to ram the enemy aircraft. It's a joke more than anything else, but could also be deadly serious.
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Old 03-01-2020, 09:17 PM
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Having a girlfriend who's also a fighter pilot gives me more than a few insights...she flies for the CA ANG, and has also put me in touch with a few retired F-4 drivers who flew for the Guard in the '80s. They, too, have been helpful with how things go in the F-4.

Anyway, the Fox codes...
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Old 03-05-2020, 03:38 PM
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nice work. took me two days to catch up. looking forward to more.
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Old 03-05-2020, 09:18 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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FYI the only active radar missile in theater (or anywhere else, for that matter) is the AIM-54A/C Phoenix, on the F-14. There is a shore-based Navy squadron in Tenth Air Force, and they go on Foxbat hunts, and also have splashed a Mainstay.
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Old 03-05-2020, 11:05 PM
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Matt just remind me who is in this war as your write-up is now so vast it would take weeks to go back reading through it

Good Guys: USA, UK, Canada, South Korea.

I think Japan, China, Australia and Israel are also on the good side. Who else?

Bad Guys: USSR, East Germany, Cuba, Libya, Nicaragua and Mexico

Other baddies I think are Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Vietnam, North Korea. Are they also in North America and who else is on the Soviet side?

And what of the French?
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Old 03-06-2020, 07:38 PM
swaghauler swaghauler is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Wiser View Post
FYI the only active radar missile in theater (or anywhere else, for that matter) is the AIM-54A/C Phoenix, on the F-14. There is a shore-based Navy squadron in Tenth Air Force, and they go on Foxbat hunts, and also have splashed a Mainstay.
What happened to all the AIM 7E and [solid state] AIM 7F Sparrows? They are Actively Guided and were the most produced radar-guided missiles in the US inventory [excepting that the AIM 7F was introduced in the mid '70s, the production of which will be affected by your timeline]. I can see all the AIM 7Ms being gone since only a few hundred were made starting in 1982, but there should be at least a few AIM 7Es left. They were the standard radar-guided missile for the Air Force.
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Old 03-06-2020, 08:53 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The Fs are in widespread service, but many of the Es are either at the end of, or are past, their effective shelf life. The 335th has just received Fs, but will not get AIM-9L (the "All-aspect" Sidewinders) until near the end of the war. The RAF has the better radar missile in the Sky Flash, but their F-4Js are the only birds in theater who are wired for them. The 335th was actually using Sparrows left over from SEA, which may explain the poor results when using AIM-7s in combat...
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Old 03-14-2020, 11:58 PM
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The next day begins....



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX; 22 November, 1987. 0525 Hours Central War Time:



Major Matt Wiser left his tent in Officer Country and headed on to the 335th's Office. The squadron CO took a look at the Eastern Horizon and noted the first hint of the predawn twilight beginning to show. Good flying weather today, he noted, but tomorrow.....A storm that was hitting the Pacific Coast right now would affect them the following day, and thus no flying unless it was a maintenance check, or an air defense scramble. There would be one other, for he promised Jana Wendt, the reporter attached to the squadron, a backseat ride in an F-4, and he intended to make good on that promise. The CO did wonder how the reporter and his wingmate get along, for he intended to have Capt. Kara Thrace take her up, while the Major had Trevor Scott, her cameraman, in his back seat.

When he got to the squadron's office, he found the night-shift admin people winding things up, though their shift had a half-hour to go. Hacksaw, the night-shift SDO, was at his desk as the Major came in.

“Boss,” Hacksaw said. He didn't rise from the desk, as that was considered rear-area habit. They were in a combat zone, and as Major General Robert Tanner, the Commander of the Tenth Air Force had said, “The shooting's started, and we can dispense with the jumping up and down nonsense.” That was something the CO agreed with completely, though it gave one officer who had been a thorn in his predecessor's side, and was currently stuck in his, fits.

The CO nodded. “Morning, Hacksaw. Still grounded?”

Hacksaw let out a grin. “When the stand-down's over, I get back in the air, Doc says.”

“Good for you,” Major Wiser nodded. “You may think you've been missing out, but you haven't missed a damned thing. Keep that in mind for today and tomorrow.”

“I know, Boss,” Hacksaw replied. “It's just...”

The CO understood. He knew the feeling, having been grounded back in March for two weeks with a cold himself-and his backseater had been grounded at the same time with a cold as well. Something that irritated them to no end for those two weeks. And yet, Doc Waters, the squadron's flight surgeon, outranked them in anything medical-even the CO, whether it was the late Colonel Rivers back then, or the Major now. “Yeah, but....you'll be back in the air day after tomorrow, where you belong.” He glanced at his office, and saw someone waiting. “XO in?”

“He's waiting for you.”

“All right, Hacksaw. Thanks.”

“You got it, Boss.”

The CO went to his office, and found Capt. Mark Ellis, his Exec, waiting. “Morning, Mark,” the CO said.

“Morning,” the XO replied. He had a clipboard in one hand and a cup of cocoa in another, which he handed to the CO. “Got a few things for you.”

Major Wiser took the cup and started to drain it. “What have we got?”

“Morning reports for MAG-11 and Tenth Air Force,” Ellis said, handing the CO the clipboard.

The CO scanned both, then signed them. “That's that. What's next?'

“Morning weather.” The XO handed the CO the Weather Report.

“VFR flying until 1800 or so, then clouding over, with rain developing overnight. Steady rain after 0200, and scattered showers after 1500 tomorrow with return to VFR conditions. Clouds top out at 18,000.” Major Wiser put down the paper. “Lovely. No flying for most of the day tomorrow, which means our check ride with Ms. Wendt is in the afternoon.”

The XO grinned. “Still trying to scare her out of here?” He wondered.

“She's made of sterner stuff,” the CO admitted. “To be honest, I thought she'd be out of here after her first Scud attack or that Su-24 strike. Which shows that first impressions don't mean much sometimes.”

“That's a fact,” Ellis said as there was a knock on the office door.

“Yeah?” The CO said. “Come on in and show yourself!”

A female lieutenant with wavy blonde hair as long as regs permitted came in, with a cup of hot liquid in each hand. “Morning, Guru,” said First Lieutenant Lisa Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, as she came into the office.Guru was the CO's call sign. She handed the CO one of the cups. “And that's for you.”

Guru took the cup and had a sip. Cocoa again. “And good morning to you,” he said. She was not only his GIB, but also his girlfriend. “Ready to go out and earn your flight pay this morning?”

She grinned. “And come April 15, we give forty-five cents of every dollar back to Uncle Sam.”

“That we do,” Guru nodded. “Wars are expensive.”

“Don't we know it,” Mark Ellis said.

“Well, this time tomorrow, we're busy sleeping in?” Goalie asked with a grin. She was looking forward to some bedroom gymnastics.

“First we have to get through today,” Guru reminded them. “First things first.” Though he didn't mind catching up with such athletics with Goalie, they had a busy day ahead, one they had to live through first.

Both knew full well what the CO was talking about. Get through the coming day, then worry about what the next day would hold. “That detail is always there,” she admitted.

“It is,” the Exec added.

“Anything special before we head to eat?” Guru asked as he sipped his cocoa.

“What's the latest on Frank?” Goalie asked.

“Nothing new from Doc,” Guru said. “But Doc did say he'd keep an eye on Frank.”

A smile appeared on Goalie's face. “Maybe Doc will find a damned good reason to ground him.”

“Maybe,” the XO said.

“I doubt it,” Guru nodded as he finished off his cocoa. “Doc told me Frank aced his flight physical, but he'll be watching for the slightest reason to ground him.” Guru glanced at the clock on his office wall. “0550. Let's get ourselves some breakfast.”

The three went to the Officer's Mess, where people from MAG-11's squadrons were milling about, waiting for the chow line to open. There, they found Marine Colonel Allen Brady, the MAG-11 CO, talking with two of the Marine squadron commanders. “Morning, Colonel,” Guru said.

“Morning, Major,” Brady said. “Ready for a maximum effort today?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said as RAF Squadron Leader Dave Gledhill came over. He was in charge of the 74 Squadron detachment that had come over to their little corner of the war. “You all set, Dave?”

“Quite,” Gledhill replied. “Though this is new, having a unit stand-down. On Bermuda, we just gave individual crews the day off.”

“That's another sign you've come to a whole new ball game in a different league,” Guru nodded. “Be glad you're getting it. Get caught up on maintenance and aircrew rest, then go back.”

“Indeed,” Gledhill said. He glanced around, and saw his two female ace pilots, Karen McKay and Susan Napier, chatting with Capt. Kara Thrace, who was Guru's wingmate. “I see Kara's chatting up with Susan and Karen.” Just then, two other ace pilots, Lieutenants Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard and Sandi “Flossy” Jenkins joined them, followed by Jana Wendt, the reporter from both CBS and 9 News Australia who was attached to the 335th.

“And the reporter's with them,” Goalie observed. “She'll be doing a piece on them.” By the tone of her voice, it wasn't a question.

“No doubt,” Colonel Brady said. “You're still taking her up, Major?”

“Kara will, yes, sir,” Guru grinned. “I don't think we'll scare her back to Nellis-she's proven to be made of sterner stuff, but she'll definitely be pulling some Gs.”

“That's a given,” Goalie grinned. “I won't be there, sir, but I'll be waiting when she lands.”

“No doubt,” Colonel Brady said. He, too, wanted to see how Ms. Wendt would take a flight in a fighter, for she did want to fly with the Marines as well. “You're taking her cameraman, I gather?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru nodded.

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


After breakfast, the flight leads went to the Ops Office to get their mission folders, while the crews went to their briefing rooms. The CO was first in, and found Capt. Don Van Loan waiting. “Don,” Guru said. “What's on tap for me this morning?”

The Ops Officer handed him a folder. “Dublin, and you've actually got three targets.”

Guru scanned the mission outline. Then he stared at Van Loan. “Whose bright idea was this?”

“Don't look at me, Boss-man. I just put things together from what the ATO calls.”

“I know, Don,” Guru said. “At least we're getting Dave Golen and Flossy again, and Dave Gledhill's element.”

“They're good people, Boss,” Van Loan grinned.

“They are. Thanks, Don,” Guru said. He then went to his squadron's briefing room-a former classroom from the days Sheppard was an ATC base. The CO found the squadron's mascot, Buddy, waiting at the door, wanting in. He opened the door, and the dog went in and promptly found a place to lie down and go to sleep. Guru then came in. “People, we've got our mission,” he said, seeing Dave Golen, Flossy, their GIBs along with Dave Gledhill's element.

“Where to?” Kara asked.

“Dublin,” Guru replied, opening the folder and passing out the briefing materials. “We've actually got three targets.”

“Three?” Sweaty wanted to know. “Whose bright idea was this?”

“Whoever put the ATO together,” Guru replied. “I'm taking Kara and hitting the municipal airport. It's been hit several times, and the East Germans have put it back together somewhat. It's still in use as an FOL for Su-25s and for Hind or Hip gunships.”

Kara looked at an SR-71 photo of the target. “So who gets what?”

“I'm taking the ramp area, and you get the runway,” Guru said. “We each have six Mark-82s and six M-117s, plus the usual air-to-air load.” That was four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, a full 20-mm load, two wing tanks, and an ECM pod-in Guru's case, an ALQ-119, while Kara still made do with an ALQ-101.

“Sounds good,” Kara grinned. “Been a while since I got a runway.”

“We'll tear it up,” Preacher said.

“Good. Sweaty?” The CO turned to his second element lead. “You and Hoser have this target south of the airport between F.M. 322 and F.M. 1702. It's a damaged vehicle collection and repair point.”

“Big mother,” Sweaty noted after seeing the imagery. “I notice it's right across the road from the town cemetery.”

Hearing that, the crews were incredulous. “Why'd they do that?” KT, Hoser's backseater, asked.

“Good question,” Hoser said. “It's a big field, and available, so why not?”

“Probably what they were thinking,” Preacher nodded.

“What's the loadout?” Sweaty asked. “Same as you and Kara?”

“It is, and Dave Golen's element has it as well,” Guru said, checking the ATO.

IDF Maj. Dave Golen, their “Observer”, asked, “What's on for us?” He nodded at Flossy.

“You've got this,” Guru said, tapping a photo of a collection of trucks with trailers, command vehicles, tents, and communications antennae. “It's listed as a suspected CP, but might be a SIGINT site, or a com relay. Whatever it is, you two make it go away.”

“A chance to kill a general?” Golen grinned. “It'll be a pleasure.”

Flossy asked, “What if it's gone when we get there?”

A very good question, Guru knew. “No alternates listed, so your choice: you can add your bombs to what Sweaty and Hoser do, or split the difference. One of you can go for this:” Guru tapped a spot on another photo-this one a low-level from an RF-4C. “It's a small fuel dump. Not big enough for two birds, but one....”

“I'll take the fuel dump if the CP isn't there,” Dave said.

“That leaves the repair yard,” Flossy nodded. “I'll finish what Sweaty starts.”

“Sounds good,” Guru nodded approval. “Okay, the other Dave?” He nodded at Dave Gledhill and his RAF people. “TARCAP as usual.”

“Got it. We'll have four Sidewinder-Ls, four Sky Flash, two wing tanks, and a SUU-23 gun pod,” Gledhill said.

“Good,” Guru said. “Nearest MiGs are at Brownwood Regional, and that's three minutes' flight time away for those MiG-21s and -23s.”

Kara nodded, then asked, “Boss, what's the MiG threat?”

“Now that you ask, it's MiG-21s and -23s at James Connolly AFB, Waco, with more at Waco Regional and Temple. More Floggers and Fulcrums are at Gray AAF at Fort Hood, with additional MiG-29s and the Flankers at Bergstrom AFB near Austin. Throw in the MiG-29s at Goodfellow, and -23s at San Angelo Municipal.”

“And the air-defense threat?” Dave Golen asked.

“They're East Germans. Around the airport? Just 23-mm and 37-mm. Dublin is a Division-level HQ, so there's SA-6 in the area, along with ZSU-23-4.”

Hoser nodded. “Somebody has to ask: any ZSU-30s?”

Guru scanned the intel sheet. “None reported, but that doesn't mean the East Germans don't have any. If you see those damned basketball-sized tracers at the target? Abort. We'll head for an opportunity target instead.”

Kara said, “There's plenty around, with this being an Army-level formation's rear.”

“There's several possibles listed,” said Guru. “All right: Ingress and egress.” He saw that everybody was paying close attention. “We hook up with the tankers at Track CHEVRON near Mineral Wells, then we get our asses down low. Follow the Brazos again, and watch for flak at the bridges and the Lake Granbury Dam. Once we get to Brazospoint, watch out, for we'll be back in the Libyan sector, and we all know how they shoot.”

“As if somebody's banned the practice and it's taking effect five minutes from that,” KT joked.

“A Golden BB can still nail you,” Guru warned them. “Keep that in mind. Anyway, we follow the river to Lake Whitney and down the lake. One mile from the dam, we turn to a heading of Two-four-five, head over the town of Fairy, then hit Lamkin on State Route 36. Then we go west for thirty seconds, then turn north, following F.M. 1702. Thirty seconds from the target, we pull up, as there's no good visual cues for a pullup. ID your target, make your run, then get your asses north. Once clear, make sure your last jink takes you to the left, and pick up State Route 16.”

Flossy asked, “Why the highway, Boss?”

“It's the boundary between the East Germans and the Soviet 32nd Army, if you'll recall, and they don't react much-probably because they think the other guys on either side of the highway will respond. Get to the highway, then north to the I-20. Meet the tankers, then come back.”

“And an hour or two later, we do this all over again,” Kara spat. It reminded her of what she'd been taught about the air war in Southeast Asia.

Guru nodded sympathetically. “That's a given. Anything else?” He asked as an Ops NCO came to collect the briefing materials.

“Buddy's still asleep,” Sweaty said, nodding at the dog.

“Let him sleep,” said Kara.

“Yeah,” Guru agreed. “If that's it, gear up and we'll meet at 512's revetment.”

The crews headed for their locker rooms to get into their flight gear. They were already in their flight suits, so it was the G-suit, survival vest, and picking up their helmets and sidearms.

When Guru came out of the Men's, he found Goalie waiting for him as usual. “Ready?”

She nodded. “Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.”

“One of the Henrys?” Guru asked as they headed out of the squadron's office.

“Richard III, I think,” Goalie replied. “It's been a while.”

“Same here,” Guru said as they walked over to 512's revetment. The rest of the flight was waiting. “All right, gather 'round,” The CO said, getting ready for his final instructions.

“Usual on the radio?” Kara asked.

Guru nodded, then replied, “Call signs between us, and mission code to other parties.”

“How many today?” Flight Lt. Susan Napier, Dave Gledhill's wingmate, asked.

“Hopefully, just the four scheduled,” said Guru. “But you never know.”

Sweaty nodded. “We could get back, and find out we're getting a hot turnaround, and are doing CAS the rest of the day.”

“Easily,” Kara agreed. “It's happened before.”

“That it has,” Guru nodded. “Okay, a reminder about bailout areas. Anyplace rural and away from the roads. As for mission code, we're Rambler Flight. Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Okay, let's fly. Time to hit it.” He clapped his hands for emphasis.

The crews headed for their aircraft, as Guru and Goalie went into the revetment. There, Sergeant Crowley, 512's Crew Chief, was waiting. “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve's ready to kick some more Commie ass,” he said, saluting.

Both Guru and Goalie returned the salute, “Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said. He and Goalie did their usual preflight walk-around, then mounted the aircraft. After getting strapped into their seats, it was time for the preflight cockpit check.

As they went through the checklist, Goalie asked, “Just how busy are we going to be today? Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, and check yours,” Guru replied. “And good question as to how busy we're going to be. That's up to Ivan.”

“Figured,” said Goalie.

“Yeah, they do have a say in that,” said Guru. “Arnie?” He was referring to the ARN-101 DMAS.

“Arnie's set, and so is the INS,” Goalie said. “Preflight checklist complete and ready for engine start.”

“So it is.” Guru gave a thumbs-up to his CC, and he got the “Start Engines” signal from Sergeant Crowley. First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running. Once the warm-up was finished, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Flight with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A controller replied at once. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you are number two in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Rambler Lead rolling.” Guru replied. He gave another thumbs-up to his CC, who waved to the ground crew. The chocks were pulled away from the wheels, and Sergeant 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 both Guru and Goalie returned it. Guru taxied to Runway 35L, as the others in the flight fell in behind him, and when he got to the holding area, a flight of Marine Hornets was ahead of his, but he was the first 335th flight out of the gate this morning. After the Marines launched, Guru led the flight into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties. Then he called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting clear to taxi for takeoff.”

“Rambler Lead, Tower,” the controller responded. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-six-five for ten.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru taxied onto the runway, then Kara followed in 520, getting right in at his Five O'clock. A final check to make sure all was ready, then he glanced over at 520. Kara and Brainiac gave thumbs-ups to signal they were ready. Then it was time. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the Tower didn't reply by radio, but flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Let's do it,” Goalie replied.

“Yeah, let's,” said Guru. “Canopy coming down. He pulled his canopy down, closing and locking it, and Goalie did the same. He looked to his right at 520, and saw that Kara and Brainiac had done the same. “Time to go.” He firewalled the throttles, 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 the turn of Sweaty's element, followed by Dave Golen's, with the two RAF F-4Js bringing up the rear. Rambler Flight formed up at FL 100, then they headed south for the tankers.

Over Central Texas: 0735 Hours Central War Time:



Rambler Flight was headed south, having topped up from the KC-135s and, for the RAF, the Tristar, and had crossed the fence and was now in hostile territory. They were following the Brazos River, just inside the sector held by the Nicaraguans, with the East Germans on the west side, and were just getting to Lake Granbury. So far, there had been no flak from the Nicaraguan side, but some East Germans had shot at them from the other side of the river.

In 512's front seat, Guru was watching not just his instruments, but also keeping up his visual scanning. Which was something the instructors at the RTU drummed into one's head not just in Ground School, but in the air as well. “Granbury Bridge in how long?” He asked Goalie.

His backseater replied, “Thirty seconds.” Or eight miles, she silently added. She, too, watched her instruments, and double-checked the navigation. Not just using the ARN-101, but also the old-fashioned way, with a map and stopwatch. And like a good GIB, Goalie also had eyes out of the cockpit, for having two pairs of eyes in the aircraft had saved their asses more than once.

“Got it,” Guru replied. He checked his EW display. Still clear, but he expected a Mainstay's radar signal to pop up any time.

“Coming up on the bridge,” Goalie advised. There were actually two bridges at Granbury, one of which carried U.S. 377 over the river, and the other was the old U.S. 377 bridge. A third railroad bridge had been dropped earlier in the summer, leaving these two. Sooner or later, Guru felt, somebody's going to drop these-unless the Army says no.

“Bridge coming up at One,” his GIB called. “And there's the flak as well.” Sure enough, the East Germans on the west side of the river began shooting, as 23-mm tracers along with puffs from 57-mm guns came up. As usual, though, the Nicaraguan gunners on the east side stayed silent, and Rambler Flight easily outdistanced the flak.

“And the dam?” Guru asked, referring to the Lake Granbury Dam.

“Coming up,” said Goalie. “Three miles.”

“Got it,” said Guru as the flak from the west side of the dam appeared. “East Germans are right on time.”

In the back seat, Goalie nodded, then she checked her EW display. “And so is Ivan.”

“What?”

“Check your EW.”

Guru checked his EW display, and sure enough, a strobe appeared to the south, along with the SEARCH warning light. “Mainstay again.” It wasn't a question.

“Roger that. Glen Rose Bridge in twenty seconds,” Goalie advised.

“Copy,” Guru said. That bridge was for U.S. 67.

“And tally on the bridge.”

The Glen Rose Bridge appeared at their One O'clock, along with the flak from the East Germans. As did a convoy on the bridge-military trucks and APCs. “Too bad this isn't armed recon,” Guru noted wistfully.

“Not their turn today,” Goalie replied. Too bad, she thought.

On the bridge, an East German Major was wincing. His convoy had had to travel through not just a Cuban rear area, but also the Nicaraguans' and the latter, he felt, were beginning to act just as his father had told him about the Italians in the last war. They were a bunch of slackers, and though they seemed very competent in their defense, or so it seemed, the Nicaraguans seemed to want the Yankees to come to them instead of resuming the offensive. At a stopover, one of the liaison officers with the Nicaraguan II Corps had taken the Major aside and given him a piece of news. Not only did it seem that the Nicaraguans want to lose the war, the other Major had said, but they wanted to do so as quickly as possible.

With that bright piece of news in hand, the Major's convoy, with supplies eventually destined for the 20th MRD, began crossing the bridge. The Traffic Regulators, at least, were Soviet, and had things well in hand. His command BTR-60PB began to cross, with trucks-including a gun truck with a ZU-23 AA gun mounted, following. Then he froze. The AA guns on the west side of the river opened up as eight American F-4s appeared, and a feeling of dread came over him, for his convoy was a sitting target. To his relief, the Ami Phantoms didn't attack, but kept on going south, intent on business elsewhere. The Major then shouted into his radio, and the convoy began moving forward again. They didn't hit us. This time, he thought.


“Brazospoint next,” Guru said as Glen Rose fell behind.

“Copy that,” Goalie said. “Twenty seconds.”

“Got it,” Guru replied as he took 512 down the middle of the river, and the flight followed. Then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler Lead, Crystal Palace,” a controller replied. “First threat bearing One-six-zero for fifty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-five for sixty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-one-zero for eighty. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-four-zero for ninety. Medium, going away.”

“Copy that,” said Guru. “Say Bogey Dope?”

“Rambler, First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers, and fourth are Fulcrums.”

“Roger, Crystal Palace.”

“Brazospoint coming up,” said Goalie. “Flak on both sides.” That meant they were out of the Nicaraguan sector to the east, and had Libyans on the east bank. This was also where the Ops Officer had run into a flak trap, and Guru had led a strike later that same day to take out the guilty parties.

“Right on time,” Guru said as the flak appeared. The East German gunners stopped shooting after the strike flight cleared the bridge, but a quick glance to the rear showed the Libyans still firing. As usual.

“They are,” Goalie agreed. “Thirty seconds to the Route 174 bridge. That signaled the north end of Lake Whitney.

“Copy.”

The strike flight kept on course, and the bridge that carried State Route 174 over the Brazos came into view-with the flak from both sides of the river. “Bridge and flak ahead,” Goalie called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied as they overflew the bridge, and unlike the Glen Rose Bridge, there was no traffic on the bridge. “This one's empty.”

“Too bad,” Goalie said as the lake opened up ahead of them.

Seeing the lake, Guru dropped lower, from 500 feet AGL to 450, and the flight followed as he did. A quick glance at the EW display showed the Mainstay radar signal still there. “And the Mainstay's going.”

“Still say someone needs to do something about those guys.”

“So do I.”

As Rambler Flight thundered down the lake, they attracted the attention of not only locals who were fishing to supplement the rationing that the occupation imposed, but also Soviet, East German, and Cuban soldiers who wanted fresh fish as a change from Army rations. Not to mention in a couple of what had been prewar, boat-in campgrounds, some of the local Resistance. The locals and the Resistance people had smiles on their faces. Seeing the Air Force coming in-as it did on a regular basis-was a boost to the morale of both the civilians and the Resistance. While the Soviet-bloc soldiery, though....seeing American aircraft over their territory unmolested by either fighters or anti-aircraft weapons was not a boost to their own morale.

“Coming up on the dam,” Guru said as they flew over a small island in the lake-about three miles from the dam itself.

“On it,” said Goalie. “Turn in ten...now five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru put 512 into a hard right turn to two-four-five, and cleared the lake. Once steady on the new course, he asked Goalie, “How far to the next checkpoint?”

“Fairy is the next one,” she replied. “Four minutes.”

“Roger that,” said Guru. Then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Rambler Lead. Say threats.”

A controller got back to him right away. “Rambler Lead, Crystal Palace. First threat bearing One-one-zero for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-two-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-one-zero for forty. Medium, going away. Fourth threat bearing Two-six-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Crystal Palace. Do you have bogey dope?”

“Rambler, First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers, and fourth are Fulcrums.”

“Copy that, Crystal Palace,” Guru said. Well, now, he thought. We may have to fight our way past those MiG-29s. “Fulcrums ahead.”

“I heard,” Goalie replied. She took a look at her EW display. “Still clear except for the Mainstay.”

Must have their radars off, Guru thought. “Keep on it,” he said.

“Rambler, Crystal Palace,” the AWACS called back. “Bandits bearing Two-six-seven for sixty. Medium, going away.”

“Crystal Palace, Rambler Lead,” replied Guru. “These the Fulcrums?”

“Affirmative, Rambler.”

“Copy that,” Guru said.

“Two minutes to Fairy,” Goalie said.

“Got it.”

Some hills went by as the strike flight kept on course. Then the AWACS came up. “Rambler Lead, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing Two-six-five for fifty. Medium, going away.”

“Fulcrums going home?” Guru thought aloud. Then he responded to the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Rambler Lead copies.”

“Let's hope so,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to Fairy.”

“Copy.” It wasn't long until Guru had visual on the town. “Fairy at Twelve.” The crossroads town, more a name on the map than a town, was also a collection of ruins. However, the town was at the junction of two Farm-to-Market roads, and as such, rated a small garrison. As the F-4s flew past, a quick glance showed some APCs parked among the ruins, but no fire came up. Good. “How long until Lamkin?” That was the next checkpoint.

“Eighteen miles,” Goalie replied. “Thirty-five seconds.”

“Copy that.”


In Fairy, a Soviet patrol was just beginning to stir. They were reservists from a rear-area protection division, all from Minsk, and most of them were well into their forties. Their platoon leader was a former schoolteacher called back to duty, and he was thirty-five. The Senior Lieutenant had taken officer's training at the University in Minsk, and done his time as a platoon leader, before going back to civilian life. With the war, he had been called back to the colors, though not too eagerly, for he was married with two children and a third on the way when he was reactivated in 1985. Not only that, but he missed his students, and still got letters from some, who were asking what it was like to be in America, and was military life all the State TV, Radio, and the magazines called it? Since most of his students were in their early teens, and thus too young to be drafted, the Lieutenant was....delicate in his answers. Yes, he was proud to do his duty, and yes, there was a lot here in America, but things weren't so.....heroic where he was. No, for his platoon was made up of men too old for front-line service, and their equipment? BTR-152 APCs with a platoon of equally old T-54As attached. No, there would be no brave stand like in the Barrikady Factory in Stalingrad....if the Yankees appeared with their dreaded M-1 tanks? His platoon would be brushed aside like so many flies. Not only did he know it, but his men as well.

The Lieutenant got out of his APC to stretch his legs when his Platoon Sergeant pointed to the east. Aircraft coming in. His men took whatever cover they could, away from the tanks and APCs as the F-4s flew overhead. Not a shot was fired, either from his men or the attached tanks, as the aircraft thundered on to the west. Getting up from a roadside ditch, he nodded to the Platoon Sergeant, who began shouting at the men to get them back into some semblance of order. At least they didn't hit us, the Lieutenant thought. But next time? It might be different.


“Lamkin in when?” Guru asked Goalie as Fairy disappeared behind them.

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie replied.

“Give the count,” Guru said, his eyes out the cockpit, keeping his visual scanning.

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

Guru put 512 into a hard right turn, settling on a course of 350 Degrees, heading towards the target. With no visual cues for pullup, it would be the old-fashioned way, by time and distance. “Flight, Lead, Music on, switches on, and stand by,” he called the flight, as he turned on his ECM pod.

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

“Set 'em up,” Guru told Goalie.

“On it, she replied, working the armament control panel in the back seat. “All set here. Everything in one pass.”

“Good,” he called. “How long to pull?”

“Forty seconds.”

Guru took a quick glance at his EW display. No fighter radars, he was glad to see, but that damned Mainstay was still there. “Roger that,” he said. Still clear visually, he saw.

“Twenty seconds,” Goalie advised.

“Start the count at ten.”

“Stand by.....Ten....now five, four, three, ready, ready, PULL!”

Guru pulled back on the stick, and as 512 pulled up, he could see his target. Dublin Airport was there, as was the vehicle repair yard. “Flight, Lead. Target in sight.”

“All set back here,” Goalie said, tightening her shoulder straps.

“Then let's do it,” said Guru, rolling in in his attack run.


At the Dublin airport, an East German Air Force Major was now in command. The Soviet Navy Yak-38s had been pulled out to reequip, and that left exactly two Su-25s, four Mi-8s, and a single An-2 on the ramp area, of which only the Su-25s were Soviet, and they were busy rearming for another sortie. The Major had been there since the front had stabilized, and he had been there for every air strike that had come in. Either F-4s, or A-7s during the day, and A-6s (or so he thought) at night. And yet, the need to support the Army meant that the airport was still being kept open, despite all the attention the Fascists paid to it. To make matters worse, the 4th MRD still had its divisional headquarters in the town, and the division's rear-area services were set up in and around the town, with a vehicle repair facility just south of the airport. Though he did wonder whose command vehicles had set up south of the runway a couple days before, but they had left without anyone paying much attention.

The Major's main concern at the moment was air defense. Or more correctly, the lack of it. All the raids had put a serious crimp in the defenses, and at the moment, all the Major had was a single battery of ZU-23s, all spread out around the field, and a battery of 37-mm guns from the 1950s, manned by gunners who dated from the 1960s. Cursing whoever had sent these overage reservists, the Major knew that with no radar-and the radar-guided 57-mm battery that had been there had been wrecked, the field would only have visual warning of an attack, and visual aiming. Then the 4th MRD's SAM Regiment had been most uncooperative, flatly refusing to locate a battery at the airport, much to his disgust. At least the missile gunners were ready, for the air force personnel had a number of shoulder-fired Strela-3 (SA-14) missiles, though they would need some warning, like the AA gunners.

Satisfied as best he could, the Major went to talk with one of the Mi-25 pilots, who was waiting on a maintenance crew to arrive to repair a broken rotor head due to battle damage. He had only taken a few steps from the tent that served as his office when a shout came, followed by AA gunners turning their weapons to the south, and he saw smoke trails in that direction, and they were climbing. F-4s, he knew from experience, and they were getting ready to attack. “AIR ALARM!” The Major shouted, then he jumped into a foxhole.


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 in on his bomb run. He spotted two Su-25s and several helos-were some Hinds, he wondered, and decided to take them. The defenders down below must have been on the ball, the CO thought, for flak began to come up, both 23-mm and 37-mm. Even an SA-7 type missile was launched, but head-on, it had no chance to guide. Ignoring the flak, Guru lined up the two Su-25s in his pipper. You'll do, he thought. Not today, Ivan or Franz. “Steady....Steady....” he muttered as the aircraft grew larger in his pipper. “And....And.....HACK!” Guru hit his pickle button, sending his six Mark-82s and six M-117Rs down onto the target below. He pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did so, hoping to avoid not only the airport's defenses, but the SA-6s and Shilkas in the area. Only when clear of both the airport and the town did he make his call. “Lead off target.”


“Schisse!” The Major muttered in the foxhole. Shit... The damned Amis are back. He heard Guru's F-4 make its run, then the bombs followed. The concussion, the dust, and then at least three sympathetic detonations shook the Major, even in the foxhole. He lifted his head to have a look, and saw both Su-25s blasted apart, along with the damaged Mi-25, while another Mi-25 had been peppered by shrapnel from a bomb blast, but wasn't on fire. Maybe we can save that, he thought. Then the AA guns turned back south, and the Major ducked. For he knew that meant another Ami coming in.


“BULLSEYE!” Goalie shouted from 512's back seat. “And we've got three or four secondaries!”

“How big?” Guru asked as he dodged an SA-7 type missile that flew by on the left side of the aircraft.

“Big enough,” was the reply.

“I'll take that,” Guru said as he jinked again, then settled on his egress course.


“Two's in hot!” Kara made her call as she took 520 down on her attack run. She saw the CO make his, and the fireballs that erupted on the ramp area as his bombs found targets. With her target being the runway, she centered the midpoint of the runway in her pipper as she came in. Kara, too, ignored the flak, and concentrated on the bomb run, while an SA-7 flew past on the right side, and another went by below. No matter. “Steady....And...And.....Steady.....And.....NOW!” She hit her pickle button, and her bombs came off the racks and onto the East Germans below. Kara then pulled up and away, and like the CO, applied power as she did so, and began jinking. No sense in making it easy for the gunners below....Only when she was clear of both the target area and the town did Kara make her call, “Two's off safe.”


“DAMNT!” The Major shouted to no one in particular. Damn....these Amis are very persistent. He heard Kara's F-4 come in, and he glaced up as the big Phantom released its bombs. This time, the bombs fell further away than the first ones had, and he knew right away what the target was. The runway. The Major saw the bombs going off, as clouds of dirt, smoke, and debris came up. Fortunately for him, the bombs were too far to worry about, and after the F-4 got away, he got up from the foxhole, intending to get things in order. Seeing the AA guns turn back south, and one of his ground officers come over and literally shove him back into the foxhole told him something else. More Ami Phantoms coming in.

“SHACK!” Brainiac's shout came over 520's IC. “Good hits back there!”

Kara grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “We got the runway?”

“We did, and it's cut,” her GIB replied.

“That's good,” she replied as an SA-7 flew past on the right. She jinked right, and another flew by just a hundred feet or so above. Some flak from rooftops in the town did come, but she was too fast for the gunners to really track. Once she was clear, Kara picked up the CO's smoke trail, then Guru's bird came into view.

“Three's in!” Sweaty called as she came in on her run. As she came in on the bomb run, she saw Kara's bird pull up, and leave bomb blasts on the runway in its wake. Good, she said to herself as she lined up her target, the vehicle repair yard. As Sweaty came in, she saw that it wasn't full to the brim, but wasn't empty, either. Must be a slow day, she thought as she lined up several tanks in her pipper. You'll go, Sweaty said to herself. She, too, ignored the flak, and the SA-7s-two of them-that came her way. “And..And....And.....HACK!” Sweaty hit her pickle button, and her dozen Mark-82s and M-117s came off the racks. She then pulled up and away, jinking and applying power as she did so, and even waggling her wings to the civilians in Dublin as she flew out. When clear of the town, Sweaty made her call, “Three's off.”


The Major muttered some curses again as Sweaty's F-4 made its run, but to his relief, the airport wasn't hit. For a moment, he wondered what had been the target, then the bomb blasts-and a couple of fireballs-signaled a strike on the repair yard. That facility was none of his concern, only the Army's, and the Major knew it. He glanced around, seeing a soldier fire a Strela-3 missile at the departing F-4, then the man ran into cover. The AA guns turned back south, and that meant more Amis, the Major knew.


“BULLSEYE!” Preacher shouted from Sweaty's back seat. “Got some secondaries!”

“What kind?” Sweaty asked as she jinked to avoid a SA-7 on the right, then another on the left.

“Several, and they're righteous!” The ex-seminary student turned GIB was pleased with that.

“I'll go with that,” Sweaty replied as she finished jinking, then picked up the CO's element.


“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he came down on his run. He saw what his element lead had done, and aimed his run for the southern end of the yard. Double-whammy for you, Franz, he thought as he lined up some vehicles that to him, looked like APCs. No matter, he said to himself as the flak came up, and so did a missile, probably an SA-7 that flew by harmlessly on the left, all of which he ignored. Hoser concentrated on his bomb run, as the APCs grew larger in his pipper. You're gone.... “Steady....Steady... And...And....NOW!” Hoser hit the pickle button, sending his dozen bombs down on the target. He then pulled up, jinking and applying power as he did, clearing both the target and the town. Only when he cleared the latter did he make his call. “Four off target.”


“Ugh...” the Major said to no one in particular. The fourth Ami Phantom came in, and as he watched from his foxhole, Hoser's F-4 released its bombs onto the repair yard. A couple of fireballs mixed in with the bomb blasts told him that the aircraft had hit what it was aiming at, and the Major shook his head. At least the repair yard was the Army's to deal with, and not his problem. What would those Party bosses back in Berlin think of this, he wondered to himself. Then he stopped. The Stasi were always on the lookout for any sign of “Defeatism” and “Non-belief in Our Victory”, he knew. Shaking his head, he started to get up when the AA guns once again turned south. More? The Major huddled in the foxhole one more time.

“Five in hot!” Dave Golen called as he came in on his run. Seeing that the target for his element was gone, he didn't have time to wonder where it went or to look around. He decided to take the small fuel dump just east of the airport, and the IDF Major easily picked it out. Just like on the photos, he thought. Not a big dump, but still worth torching. Ignoring the flak and at least two SA-7s that came his way, he lined up the depot in his pipper. “Steady now....Steady....And...Steady.....NOW!” Golen hit his pickle, sending a dozen more Mark-82s and M-117s down onto the East Germans. Like the others, he, too, applied power and pulled up, jinking all the while to avoid flak or SAMs. When he cleared both the airport and Dublin proper, Golen made his call. “Five off target.”


“Schisse!” The Major yelled as Dave Golen's F-4 came in and released its bombs. This time, he had no doubt as to what the target was. His fuel dump. Oh, it wasn't large, but enough to support operations as they currently stood-and it had been relocated several times after being hit in air strikes. The size clearly made no difference to the attacker, for a dozen bombs came off the aircraft, and as it thundered overhead, the bombs landed in and around the fuel dump. A number of oily fireballs erupted at once, then several others as secondary explosions set off more fuel tanks or drums. This is not good, the Major thought, knowing full well that was an understatement. He got up out of the foxhole once again, then noticed the AA guns turning once again. Back to the foxhole, he thought as another Ami Phantom came in.


“GOOD HITS!” Terry McAuliffe, Golen's GIB, shouted. “Multiple secondaries!”

“How big?” Golen asked as he jinked, dodging another SA-7 on the left, and some AA fire from a building in town.

“Big enough!”

“Good to know,” Golen said as he jinked again, then picked up Sweaty's element.


“Six in hot!” Flossy called as she brought 1569 in on her bomb run. She saw the fuel dump go up, and the craters on the runway, and decided to strike the repair yard. Flossy spotted a number of vehicles that hadn't been struck, and selected those for her strike. She, too, ignored the flak coming up, and a couple of non-guiding SA-7s, as she concentrated on her bomb run. Going to really ruin Franz's morning, she thought as the vehicles-these looked to be a mix of APCs and tanks-grew larger. “And....And....Steady...” She said aloud. “And....HACK!” Flossy hit her pickle button, and sent her dozen Mark-82s and M-117s onto the yard. She immediately pulled up and away, jinking as she did so, and applying power. Flossy cleared the target and the town, and when clear, she made the call. “Six off safe.”

“Of all the...” The Major said as Flossy's F-4 came in on its run. At first, he wondered what the aircraft's target was, then when he saw bomb release, he knew what it was. The repair yard again. A dozen bomb blasts followed, then a couple of fireballs right after, then a couple more. That's the Army's problem, he thought. He got up out of the foxhole, and saw the AA gunners swinging their guns around, but no longer firing. This one's over, he said to himself. Now to get some order out of this mess. The Major then began shouting orders.

“SHACK!” Jang called from 1569's back seat.

“Good hits?” Flossy asked as she jinked left to avoid a missile, then right to avoid another, along with some tracer fire from the town.

“Good and a few secondaries to go along with 'em.”

“That'll liven up their morning,” Flossy said as she picked up her element lead, and formed up with him.


When Flossy gave her “Off safe” call, Guru grinned beneath his oxygen mask, while Goalie called on the IC. “Six in and out.”

“Still got a game on,” Guru reminded her. “Rambler One-seven and One-eight, get your asses down and clear.”

“Roger Lead,” both Paul Jackson and Susan Napier called, and both RAF F-4Js hustled to catch up with the strike birds.

“Approaching Route 16,” Guru said as the state highway appeared to the left. “How far to the fence?” That meant the I-20.

“One minute,” Goalie replied. “Sixteen miles.”

“Got it,” Guru said. “Two, where are you?”

“Right with you, Lead,” Kara replied. A quick glance to the right had 520 right with them in Combat Spread.

“Sweaty?”

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

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

“Roger all,” said Guru. Then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Rambler Lead. Any threats?”

“Rambler Lead, Crystal Palace,” the controller replied. “Threat bearing Two-two-zero for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing Two-one-five for fifty. Medium, closing. First threats are Fishbeds, second threats are Fulcrums.”

“Roger that. Can you arrange a reception committee?”

“Can do, Rambler,” said the controller. “Break, Rustler Lead, Crystal Palace. Bandits bearing One-eight-five for forty-five. Medium, closing. Multiple bandits inbound. Kill. Repeat: KILL. Clear to arm and fire.”

“Rustler Lead copies,” an F-15 flight lead replied. “Confirm clear to arm and fire.”

“Rustler, Crystal Palace. Clear to arm and fire.”

“Roger.” The F-15 lead turned, and the four-ship flight turned south, fangs out.

In 512, Goalie was checking her navigation. “Thirty seconds to the fence,” she called.

“Lead, Two,” Kara called out. “What if the bandits get past the Eagles?”

“Then we turn on them, Two,” Guru replied firmly. “Not before.”

“Roger that,” Kara said, her reply tinged with disappointment, though she knew the CO was right. Why hassle with MiGs if the F-15s were coming in? But if they jumped a recon bird....

“Rustlers, clear to engage,” Rustler Lead called, as four F-15Cs engaged four East German MiG-21s out of Brownwood Regional. The first volley of AIM-7Ms splashed two, and the other two were killed by a second volley. Two MiG-29s then continued to close in, and one of them was splashed, with the other turning for home after seeing his flight leader killed.

“Crossing the Fence....now!” Goalie called as the twin ribbons of I-20 appeared.

“Got it,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Music off and IFF on, out.” He turned on his IFF transponder and turned off his ECM pod.

“Mainstay's gone off,” Goalie said, checking her EW display.

Guru checked his own display, and saw the Mainstay signal was no longer displayed, and the SEARCH warning light was off. “We'll see him again, unless somebody takes another Phoenix shot.”

“To be wished for,” said Goalie.

“Yeah.”

The flight climbed to altitude, and met up with the tankers for their post-strike refueling. That done, they headed back to Sheppard. When they got there, the flight was third in line to land, after a Marine Hornet flight and a westbound C-130. When it was their turn, they came in and landed, and to those watching on the ground, it was disappointing, as no one did victory rolls.

As they taxied in, the crews saw a C-5B coming in to land. “What's he got?” Guru asked. “First time in a while I've seen a Galaxy.”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Goalie said. “Haven't seen a C-5 since one night in Denver. They brought in a ton of supplies, and stuffed five hundred or so people in for the trip out.”

Guru heard that, and shook his head. How that bird had gotten airborne with that many people.... “Did they make it?”

“They did,” Goalie said as 512 taxied towards the dispersal area. “They went to Salt Lake. Don't know how, but they made it.”

Shuddering at what he'd heard about Denver, he was actually glad to have been either in the air, or doing his Resistance time. “One of these days, you need to share some of those stories,” Guru said.

“I will,” Goalie said.

Guru taxied into the squadron's dispersal area, then the aircraft went for their individual revetments. Finding 512's, he taxied in, and Sergeant Crowley gave the “Stop” signal, and the ground crew laid down the wheel chocks. Then the Crew Chief gave the “Shut Down” signal, and Guru shut down the engines.

After the post-flight cockpit check, and the ground crew deploying the crew ladder, pilot and GIB got out. They did a post-flight walk-around, and when finished, Sergeant Crowley was waiting with bottles of water for both. “Major, how'd she do?”

“Five-twelve's working like a champ, Sarge. Tore up an airfield again, and got a couple of ground kills, but no MiGs in the air.”

“This time,” Goalie said wistfully. She, too, wanted more air-to-air action, with KT having five backseat kills to equal her own.

“Better luck next time,” Guru said, then he downed half his water bottle. “Sarge, get her turned around for the next one. We'll be back at it before too long.”

Crowley nodded. “You got it, Major! All right, people! You heard the CO. Let's get this bird ready for the next one!”

While the ground crew got to work, Guru and Goalie went to the revetment's entrance, where Kara and Brainiac were already waiting. “Well?” Guru asked his wing crew.

“Tore up the runway,” Kara grinned. “And you guys did the same to a couple of Su-25s and a couple of helos.”

“Strike camera should tell us,” Goalie said. “Hinds or Hips, I think, from the prestrike photos.”

“I'll take either one,” Guru said as Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT arrived. “How'd it go with you guys?”

Sweaty had a grin from ear to ear. “Turned that repair yard into a junkyard.”

“That we did,” Hoser nodded. “But what'd they have there? There were more than a couple secondaries.”

“Fuel or ammo taken from vehicles?” KT asked.

“Maybe,” Preacher said. “The explosions were righteously good, though.”

“They were,” Dave Golen said as he and his people came up. “Got the fuel dump.”

“No C3 site?” Guru asked.

“Nobody home,” Terry McAuliffe replied. “So we took the dump.”

“Flossy?”

“We finished the repair yard,” Flossy grinned, and Jang nodded. “No MiGs, though.”

Dave Gledhill's people came next. “I'll second that,” Gledhill said. “Where did those MiGs that were coming for us go? The ones closing before turning for the target?”

Guru nodded. He'd been wondering about that himself. “Maybe they got vectored after somebody else?”

“Or they were low on fuel,” Dave Golen ventured. “The MiG-29's something of a gas hog, isn't it?”

“It is,” Sin Licon said as he came up. “At least these ones are. Major, we need to get the debrief done.”

Guru nodded, as he knew it. “That we do. Come on, people. Let's make the intel folks happy. Then we can get something to snack on, check your IN boxes and make sure they're empty, because in a couple hours at most, the next game is on.”

“As long as 'tis not CAS,” Sweaty nodded.

“Don't say that word,” Kara reminded her. “Last thing anyone here wants. Let the SLUF and Hog drivers handle that.”

Guru nodded back. “No argument from me on that, Starbuck. Come on: let's get the debrief done. One and done. Three more to go.”

“Hopefully,” Goalie said.

“Yeah,” the CO nodded. “Let's go.”
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  #528  
Old 03-15-2020, 12:02 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Second mission:


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


Major Matt Wiser sat at his desk, going over some papers. One thing the CO thing was teaching him was that the battle with the bureaucrats never stopped, though having a good Exec meant that Mark filtered out the wheat from the chaff, and left him only what was really important. The paperwork from the AF bureaucracy out of the way, he turned his attention to some squadron business-namely, the supply requisitions that required his signature. That done, Guru got up and went to his office window. The rumble of jet engines, and a low-flying HH-53 rescue chopper, was music to his ears, as he watched a flight of Marine F-4s rumble down one of the runways and into the air. Good. Shove it up Ivan's ass, the CO thought when a knock on his office door came. “Yeah? Show yourself and come on in!”

The Exec, Mark Ellis, came in. “Boss, got something for you. It's from Frank.”

“A request for a transfer, I hope?” Guru asked. Major Frank Carson was a running sore in the squadron, having been a thorn in not only his side, but his predecessor's, for two years. The CO had finally had enough of the Major's presence, and had warned him that one more foul-up would send Carson packing for (hopefully) colder climes.

“No, but another complaint,” Ellis said, handing the CO a paper.

Guru took the paper. “What's he upset about now?” He scanned it, then stared at his XO. “Flossy flashed him coming out of the shower again.”

“She did,” Ellis nodded.

The CO shook his head. She had good reason to despise Carson, but then again, so did he, and just about everyone else in the squadron. Not to mention MAG-11. “Well, we know where this goes,” he said, feeding the complaint to the office shredder. Though he did have a mind to remind Flossy about not razzing Frank.

“That's that.”

“It is,” Guru said. “Kerry Collins back?”

“Not yet, Boss. He left a half-hour after you did.” Capt. Kerry Collins was the Squadron's Ordnance Officer.

“Okay. Sometime today, I need to talk to him. I need to know how long it takes to qualify a new piece of ordnance on the F-4.”

Ellis had an idea of what the CO had in mind. “That mission you and Goalie are cooking up?” Seeing the CO nod, he went on. “Anything in particular?”

“Durandals,” Guru said. “Or the Israelis' Dibber bombs.” Both weapons were specialized anti-runway ordnance, and had proven their worth. The former in this war, and the latter both in 1967 and 1973.

“That's F-111 and A-6 ordnance for the Durandal,” the XO replied, referring to the French-made and license-built anti-runway bomb. “As for the Dibbers? Don't know if we've ever had the chance. I know the Israelis have.” Ellis said. “Have you talked to Dave Golen?”

“Not yet. But we'll be bringing him in on this, and not just for planning. Chances are, unless he gets himself killed or gets recalled back home, he's flying the mission,” said Guru. A chat with their IDF “Observer” on this subject was definitely in order, he realized.

“Good idea,” Ellis said. “You still want just three flights?”

“Maybe, maybe not. Four might be better,” Guru said. “We'll work that out after Goalie and I get back from Nellis. General Tanner needs to be briefed, so we get mission approval, but I have no idea when they want us there.”

“Probably after the stand-down,” the XO said. Then there was another knock on the door.

“Yeah?” Guru asked. “Show yourself and come on in!”

Kara opened the door. “Boss and XO, we've got missions.”

“No rest for the weary or the wicked,” Guru observed. “When?”

“Birds are prepped and folders are ready,” Kara replied. “Ready to go when you're ready.”

“Guess I'd best get my people,” Ellis said.

“And mine,” Guru added. “Kara? Pass the word to the XO's flight, and round ours up. We getting Dave and Flossy?”

“Not this one, Boss. We do get the Brits, though,” Kara replied.

Guru nodded. “Not every time,” he mused. He did like having the IDF Major with his flight, for Dave Golen had shot MiGs off his and Goalie's asses at least twice. “All right: have our people in the briefing room. Ten minutes.”

“I'm gone,” Kara said, then she headed out the door.

“Good luck, Mark,” the CO said, shaking the XO's hand. “Kara doesn't want to be Ops just yet.

“You too, Boss,” said Ellis. “And you be careful your own self. Don't want to be CO. Not like that.”

Guru knew what he meant. That was the same way he had gotten the 335, filling a dead man's shoes. “Know the feeling, Mark. Do my best, even if I come back via Jolly Green.”

“You really don't want to take Goalie skydiving?” Ellis said as he turned to leave.

Guru let out a grin. “Only if I have to,” he said.

After the XO left, the CO went to the Ops Office, and found Don Van Loan waiting. “Boss,” Van Loan said, handing Guru a mission folder. “Here's your mission.”

Guru nodded, then opened the folder. “Well, now....more in the East German rear,” he said, scanning the target brief. “Army-level target again.”

“Yeah, same for me, but you don't get Dave and Flossy this time.”

“Okay, Don. Thanks,” the CO said. “You have a good one yourself.”

“You, too, Boss.” The Ops Officer nodded. No need to warn the CO about not coming back-since the XO had already told him.

Guru took the folder and went to his flight's briefing room. When he got there, he found the rest of his flight waiting, and Buddy, the squadron's mascot, already asleep. “All right, people,” the CO said. “We've got a mission.”

“No Dave and Flossy this time?” Sweaty asked.

“Not this one,” Guru said. “This one's in the East German sector again. Seven miles northwest of Hico, at a spot on the map called Clarette, there's a supply depot, and it's good-sized one.”

“And we get to make it go away,” Hoser said. It wasn't a question.

“Bingo,” said the CO. He passed around some RF-4C and SR-71 imagery. “No designated aimpoints on this one, so it's put your bombs where you think they'll do the most good.”

Goalie took a look an some of the imagery, and tapped one of the photos with a pencil. “They've got quite a few revetments here, and that usually means ammo.”

“Fuel drums also here,” Kara noted. “And bladders, too.” She looked at the CO. “Don't they usually separate fuel and ammo?”

“They do,” Guru said. “I'm curious myself, but ours is not to reason what they do, ours is to make this go sky-high.”

“Truck park just across the road,” Sweaty added, looking up from an RF-4C image. “Fuel and dry cargo, both of 'em. And we've seen this before.”

“Maintenance area?”

“Smells like it to me,” Sweaty nodded. “Some of their supply trucks probably rest here when not rolling.”

“Whatever,” Hoser said. “So, who gets what, and what do we get to wreck this place with?”

“Dealer's choice as to the former,” Guru said. “As to what we get? Same as last time: six Mark-82s, six M-117s, plus the usual air-to-air of four Sidewinders, two Sparrow-Fs, usual pods for leads and wingmen, two wing tanks, and full twenty mike-mike, each bird.” He looked at his crews. “The Mark-82s have Daisy Cutters.” By that, the CO meant the fuze extensions. “Dave? You get the TARCAP, as usual.”

“Right,” Dave Gledhill replied. “We've got the same load we had this morning.”

Heads nodded at that, then Kara asked, “So, how do we get there? Usual route for the Brazos?”

“That we do,” Guru said. “Follow the river along the east side, just inside the Nicaraguan sector. All the way to Lake Whitney. A mile short of the dam, we turn to a course of Two-three-five to the town of Fairy. Turn northwest to Hico.”

“Which we've hit before,” KT recalled. “More than once.”

“That we have,” the CO agreed. “The town is the pop-up point. Seven miles northwest, twenty-five seconds, is the target.”

“Egress?” Sweaty asked.

“Once you're finished jinking, get your asses north, but stay clear of Stephenville,” Guru advised. “That place still crawls.”

Nodding, Kara spoke up. “Defenses here?” She asked.

“Hico's close to shoot on the way in, and they still have 23-mm, 37-mm and 57-mm,” said Guru, reading from the intel sheet. “The target area proper? They've got 23s and 37s.”

“Plus the guys with SA-7s,” added Brainiac. It wasn't a question, from his tone of voice.

“That, too, and on the way out?” Guru said. “There's still SA-4 and SA-6. So stay low, keep your ECM on, and that's that. If you see those damned basketball-sized tracers? Abort, and we'll go for an opportunity target.”

Kara grinned. “Plenty of those around in an Army-level rear area.”

“Ought to be,” Guru nodded. “Okay, MiG threat is unchanged, as is the weather. Same for bailout areas. Anything else?”

“Two more after this one?” Susan Napier asked.

“We should, unless somebody hollers for CAS,” the CO said as an Ops NCO came to the door. He would collect the briefing materials after everyone left. “Any other questions?” Heads shook no. “Okay, that's it. Gear up and we'll meet at 512.”

As the crews got up to leave, several people noticed Buddy still asleep. “Buddy slept through,” Preacher noted. “Let him sleep.”

“Remember, it's not him waking up in a brief,” Goalie said. “It's that he doesn't fall asleep in the first place.”

“It is that,” said the CO as he handed the material to the Ops NCO. Then he headed on out to the Men's locker room. After getting into his G-Suit, survival vest, and drawing his sidearm and helmet, Guru left, and found Goalie waiting outside, as usual. “You ready?”

“Let's go fly,” Goalie said. “They do pay us for this, you know.”

“Not enough,” Guru replied as they headed on out. After leaving the squadron's offices, they found Dave Golen, Flossy, Terry McAuliffe, and Jang going over their own mission. “Dave,” Guru nodded. “Too bad you're not going with us.”

“Can't have it every time,” the IDF major said. “Where are you headed?”

“Ammo dump near Hico,” Guru said, showing him the map. “You?”

“Eight miles south, on Highway 281. Reported truck park near Olin.”

“Okay, if it's not there? You come our way. We don't get paid for bringing ordnance home. What's your mission code for this one?”

“Firebird,” Golen replied.

“Good. I'll call you and ask if you have no joy on target. If you don't have a target....”

“We'll come your direction.”

Guru nodded. “Good. And come up our way anyhow if you come across those basketball-sized tracers. Don't want anyone crossing paths with ZSU-30. Not until we get the EW tweaked.”

“We'll be there, and doubly so if the MiGs show.”

They shook on it, then Guru nodded at Golen's wingmate. “I need to talk to Flossy.”

“What's up, Boss?” Flossy asked.

“Come with me,” the CO said, walking towards the dispersal area. “Did you flash Frank this morning?” Guru asked with all due seriousness. “That's the last thing anyone should be doing.”

Flossy shook her head. “No, Major, I didn't, and you can ask Goalie, Kara, and Sweaty. Along with Ryan Blanchard. They were there. I did have my bathrobe open a little more than I should've though.” She looked at her CO and something came to her. “He complain again?”

“He did,” the CO nodded. “I don't want to give him any reason to pop, either in the air or on the ground. No razzing him, understood? Even though you have very good reason to.”

Flossy knew what the CO wanted. Namely, for Frank to impale himself of his own volition, not because of something she-or anyone else in the squadron said or did. “Understood, Major.”

Guru nodded again. “Good. That's that.” The two went back to where Dave Golen and the others in his element were waiting, along with Goalie. “Dave? You all have a good one. Bring everybody back now, you hear?”

“Loud and clear, but nothing's guaranteed in this line of work,” Golen replied.

“As we're all well aware. Okay, if you hit MiG trouble, holler, and we'll bring the Brits.”

“The more the merrier,” Jang grinned.

“That it is,” Guru said. “You all have a good one.”

“You too,” Golen nodded.

Guru and Goalie then headed to 512's revetment. “What was that all about?” Goalie asked as they approached the revetment.

“Frank had another complaint about Flossy,” Guru said. “Said she flashed him.”

“Not that way,” Goalie admitted. “She may have had her bathrobe a little too loose, but then again, a lot of us do that.”

“You were there,” Guru said. “Along with Kara, Sweaty, and Ryan, and they'll back up you and Flossy. Still, no razzing Frank, remember?”

“I know, you want him to fall on his own sword, and not have anyone help him.”

“That's the best-case scenario, other than Doc finding a reason to ground Frank and send him out of here for some tests.” Goalie nodded as they arrived at the revetment, and the rest of the flight was there, waiting. “All right, gather around.” It was time for Guru to give his final instructions.

“Usual on the radio?” Kara asked.

“That it is,” Guru said. That meant mission code to AWACS and other parties, and call signs between themselves. “Dave and Flossy have their own mission, but they'll be close enough to come in if we holler. And if they have no joy at their target, they're coming in anyway.”

“They seem to draw MiGs on occasion,” Hoser pointed out.

“They do, and we get a fight,” Guru admitted. “All right! Let's get this one done, then we can get some chow. Two more in the afternoon, unless some Army puke starts screaming for CAS.”

“That we don't want,” said Sweaty. “Leave that to the Hogs and A-7s.”

“No arguing with you there,” Guru said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no on that. “Okay, let's go. Time to hit it. Meet up at ten grand overhead.” The CO clapped his hands for emphasis.

The crews headed to their aircraft, while Guru and Goalie went into the revetment. Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting as the ground crew wrapped up their chores. “Major, Lieutenant,” Crowley said as he snapped a salute. “Five-twelve's ready to rock and roll.”

“As always,” Guru replied as he and Goalie returned the salute. Both pilot and GIB did their usual preflight walk-around, then they climbed the crew ladder and mounted their seats. Crowley and the Assistant Crew Chief helped them get strapped in, then they removed the crew ladder. Then Guru and Goalie went through their preflight checks.

“Looking forward to that little trip to Nellis?” Goalie asked as they went through the checklist.

“It's business, you know,” Guru replied. “But yeah, we'll get at least one night in Vegas.”

“It is that,” Goalie agreed. “Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom. Check yours. Arnie?”

“Arnie's up and running, and so is the backup INS.” She meant the ARN-101 DMAS and the backup INS. “You do value your wallet being full.”

“You read my mind,” Guru admitted. “Though I don't mind occasionally feeding a one-armed bandit.”

“Same here. Then there's the other reason.”

“Which is?”

“Getting at least one night in a real bed. Been a long time, and not just for sleeping...Preflight checklist complete and we're ready for engine start,” Goalie said, putting the checklist back in a flight suit pocket.

“It has been. And that we are,” Guru replied. He gave a thumbs-up to his Crew Chief, and Sergeant Crowley responded with the “Start Engines” signal. First one, then both J-79 engines were up and running. Once the warm-up was complete, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Lead with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Rambler Lead, Tower,” a controller responded. “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you are number three in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Rambler Lead is rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up to Sergeant Crowley, who responded with one of his own, then waved to the ground crew. The chocks were pulled away from the wheels, then Guru released the brakes and began taxiing. He taxied out of the revetment, responding to Crowley's signals, and once clear, the Crew Chief snapped a perfect salute, and both Guru and Goalie returned it.

Guru taxied out, with the rest of the flight following, and taxied to Runway 35L. There, a four-ship of Marine Hornets, followed by a four-ship of Marine F-4s were ahead of him. First the Hornets went, then the Jarhead Phantoms taxied out. Guru then taxied into the holding area, where, as usual the armorers were waiting. There, the weapon safeties were removed. Guru watched as the four Marines thundered down the runway and into the air, then it was his turn. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting clear to taxi for takeoff.”

A controller got back to him at once. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-six-eight for ten.”

“Roger, Tower,” Guru replied. He taxied onto the runway, and Kara followed in 520, taking her position in his Five O'clock. A final cockpit check followed, then Guru checked Kara's bird, and saw Kara and Brainiac give a thumbs-up, as usual. Both Guru and Goalie returned it, then it was time. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

The tower flashed the usual green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“All set. Time to fly,” she replied.

“It is,” Guru said. “Canopy coming down.” He pulled his canopy down, closing and locking it. That done, he glanced again at 520, and saw their canopies down and locked, signaling all was ready. “Then let's go.” Guru firewalled the throttles, released the brakes, and 512 thundered down the runway and into the air, with 520 right alongside. It was the turn of Sweaty and Hoser thirty seconds later, followed by the two RAF F-4Js. They met up at FL 100, then headed south for the tanker track.


Over Central Texas, 1040 Hours Central War Time:


Rambler Flight was headed south, having crossed the I-20 and were now in enemy territory. They had met up with the tankers west of Mineral Wells and topped up, and were now just east of the Brazos River, a quarter-mile inside the Nicaraguan II Corps sector, but close enough to use the river as a visual navigation aid-especially the bridges. So far, the Nicaraguan flak gunners were staying quiet, but when they got to the first of the bridges over the Brazos, the East Germans on the west bank would shoot-no doubt about that.

In 512's cockpit, Major Matt Wiser looked up from his instruments. Fighter pilot habits took hold once in enemy territory, and that meant having eyes outside the cockpit as well as inside. The need to have one's head on a swivel had been drummed into his head at the RTU before the war, and wartime experience had reinforced it with a vengeance. “Granbury Bridge in how long?” He asked Goalie.

“Four miles and fifteen seconds,” his GIB replied. “EW still clear.” Then a strobe came up to the south, and the SEARCH warning light came on. “Spoke too soon.”

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

“Has to be, and bridge at One, and the flak,” Goalie replied as the Granbury Bridges appeared. The railroad bridge that carried a rail line up to Fort Worth had been dropped, but the old U.S. 377 Bridge and the new four-lane bridge that carried the highway across the river were both still up.

“Got it,” Guru said as the East German gunners across the river opened up. He took a quick look at the two road bridges. “No traffic.” Both bridges were clear as they passed by.

“Too bad,” Goalie said wistfully. She remembered armed reconnaissance that they had flown in New Mexico prior to PRAIRIE FIRE that summer, and catching convoys or units in column on roads they had thought safe.

Guru stayed on the east side of the river, as he headed towards the Lake Granbury Dam-where more flak awaited. “Dam in when?”

“Twenty seconds.”

Guru kept up his visual scanning as he led the flight closer to the dam. He knew they were approaching the dam when the gunners on the East German side opened up with their 23-mm and 37-mm guns. “There's the dam.”

“Got it,” Goalie noted. One more checkpoint clear. “Twenty seconds to Glen Rose,” she added. That meant the U.S. 67 bridge.

“Copy,” Guru replied. Then he called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

A controller got back to him right away. “Rambler, Warlock. First threat bearing One-four-five for forty-five. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-six-zero for fifty-five. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing One-eight-five for seventy. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Any bogey dope?”

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

“Copy.”

“Bridge and flak ahead,” Goalie advised, as the 23-mm, 37-mm, and 57-mm fire appeared from the west side.

“Roger that,” Guru said as the flak gunners kept shooting. They were shooting wide, as the F-4s were too low and too fast, for Rambler Flight easily outran the flak. “How long to Brazospoint?” He asked Golaie as he took 512 to the right, then right down the middle of the river, with the rest of the flight following.

“Twenty seconds,” replied Goalie. “Libyan sector again.”

“Yep.”

The strike flight continued south, with the Brazospoint Bridge coming up. There, the squadron had been burned by a flak trap a few days earlier, with one crew down and MIA, and another down and rescued. But they had turned the tables on the East Germans and Libyans, putting the hurt on both the flak gunners, SAM operators, and even some Libyan MiGs that had come to the party.

“Visual on the bridge,” Goalie said. “And the flak.”

“Right on time,” Guru said as the East Germans on the west side-and now Libyans on the east side, opened up. A quick glance at the EW display showed no gun radars, which meant the gunners were shooting visually. Again, the strike flight was too fast the for the gunners to track accurately. “Libyans still shooting?”

“Lead, five,” Paul Jackson called. “They're still at it back there.”

“Let'em shoot,” Guru replied. “How long to Route 174?” That was the next bridge, and it led right to Lake Whitney.

Goalie checked the map and the DMAS. “Twelve miles,” she advised. “Forty seconds.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. Then he called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler Lead, Warlock,” the controller called back. “First threat bearing Zero-nine-zero for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-six-zero for fifty. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing One-eight zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-four-zero for seventy. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Confirm bogey dope?”

“Rambler, First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers, with the fourth Fulcrums.”

“Copy.”

“One-seventy-four Bridge dead ahead,” Goalie reported. “And the flak.” Again, the gunners on both sides began shooting.

“Got it, and there's westbound traffic,” Guru said as they overflew the bridge. It looked like APCs and trucks, and even some tanks. He, too, wished for an armed recon.

“Not their turn,” Goalie said.

“Not today,” Guru agreed.


On the bridge, a Soviet Major of Transport Troops was having a fit. He had had enough problems with those black-assed Libyans causing him delays, and that was without the air strikes-two of which had hit his convoy while in the Libyan sector. The lackadasial attitude the Libyans had only reinforced his loathing for anyone not from the Soviet Union, though he did admit that the East Germans came close-but they were still Germans, he reminded himself.

Now, his convoy with supplies and replacement vehicles for the 144th GMRD was crossing this bridge, and the last thing he wanted was for there to be an air attack. His heart froze as the AA gunners opened fire, then six American fighters came right down the river, headed right for his convoy. Some of his men grabbed their AKM rifles or machine guns and opened fire themselves, while others took cover underneath their vehicles-even though if the bridge was dropped, that wouldn't help. To the Major's relief, the Americans oveflew the bridge and his convoy without dropping a single bomb. Maybe they had other business, he thought. Then he began shouting orders and getting his men back into their vehicles-all the while keeping an eye on the sky. For more American aircraft arrived-or the flight that had just passed turned back....


In 512, Goalie noted, “And here's the lake. One minute ten to turn.”

“Roger that!” Guru said as he dropped down lower, from 500 feet AGL to 450 feet. And Rambler Flight thundered down the lake. He glanced at the EW display. “Still got the Mainstay.”

Goalie was exasperated. “Why doesn't somebody take those guys all the way out?” This was getting tiresome, being tracked by an airborne radar and not being able to do a damned thing about it.

“Maybe somebody's working on it,” Guru said. He was looking around, hoping nobody with a MANPADS was around. “Turn point in when?”

“Forty seconds,” Goalie said. “Hope you're right, or maybe the Tomcats pull another one.”

“Navy's got their uses,” quipped Guru.

The strike flight thundered down the lake, once again giving reassurance to the locals who were fishing, and to the Resistance who were using a couple of boat-in only campgrounds as gathering spots, that friendlies were nearby, and that there was light at the end of the damned tunnel. While the Russians, East Germans, and Libyans who were also there were wondering where their air forces were, if Americans were flying up and down the lake on a regular basis.

“Turn in when?” Guru asked.

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie advised. “Counting down. Ten, now five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned right to a course of Two-three-five, heading for the town of Fairy. “Steady on Two-three-five.”

“Copy that. Thirty-five miles to Fairy. Two minutes.”

“Got it,” Guru replied.

The Texas hills went by, as the strike flight continued on course. While the pilots maintained their visual scanning and quick checks of their instruments, the GIBs checked the navigation, the EW displays, and had another set of eyes looking out. For most crews were killed by what they didn't see, and having two pairs of eyes looking out had been a crew-saver more times than anyone cared to count.

“How long to Fairy?” Guru asked. That was their next turn point.

“One minute,” Goalie replied. “Sixteen miles.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. Then he called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler. Say threats?”

“Rambler Lead, Warlock,” the AWACS controller replied. “First threat now bearing One-eight-five for forty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing Two-two-zero for Fifty-five. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing Two-seven-five for seventy. Medium, going away.”

“Roger, Warlock. Any bogey dope?”

“Rambler Lead, first threats are Floggers. Second and third are both Fulcrums.”

“Copy.” Two groups of Fulcrums, Guru thought. That'll make Kara and the RAF guys drool.

“Fulcrums, Boss,” Kara called, as if she had anticipated Guru's thought.

“Only if they get too close,” Guru said, reminding her of a squadron rule: No trolling for MiGs.

In 520's cockpit, both Kara and her GIB, Brainiac, were disappointed. And yet, they knew full well why that was a rule-going back to the early days of the war. Hassling with MiGs wasn't their primary mission: putting bombs on target and making things on the ground burn, bleed, and blow up was. “Maybe they'll get close enough,” Kara said on her IC.

“Maybe,” Brainiac reply. He didn't sound too confident, with the two RAF F-4Js along to deal with any party-crashers.

“Fairy coming up,” Guru called. “Got visual.”

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

Guru put 520 into another right turn, centering on a course of Three-four-zero. “Hico's next.” That was the pop-up point. “How far?”

“Six miles,” said Goalie. “Twenty seconds.”

“Flight, Lead,” Guru called the flight. “Switches on, music on, and stand by.” That meant to arm their weapons and turn on their ECM pods.

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

Guru turned on his ALQ-119 ECM pod, and told Goalie. “Set 'em up.”

Goalie worked the rear seat armament controls. “You're set. Everything in one pass.”

“Rambler Lead, Firebird Lead,” Dave Golen called. “No joy on target.” Golen's element had launched just after they did, and had followed Rambler Flight south.

“Roger, Firebird,” Guru called. “Come and join the party,” he said.

“On our way,” Golen replied, his two-ship turning north.

Goalie checked her map, then the DMAS, and looked outside. “Hico coming up.”

“Got it,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Stand by to pull.”

“Five seconds, Four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru pulled up as Hico appeared, and as the flight overflew the town-and sending many in the garrison to their shelters, while a few flak and SAM gunners tried to shoot, he headed for his target. Just as Hico went behind them, he glanced at his EW display, and it chilled him. Four, then five, then one more bright squares appeared, four of them with “11” inside, and two with “23.” “Son of a bitch!”

“What?” Goalie asked.

“We've got a SAM trap!” Guru called. “Flight, Lead. ABORT!”

“Lead, you sure?” Kara replied.

“Gadflies and Zoo Twenty-threes down there,” the CO said. “ABORT! Firebird, did you hear that?”

“Roger, Rambler,” Golen replied. “Coming up on your six.”

Guur turned sharply to the right, and as he did, one of the SAM vehicles launched.

“SAM, Ten O'clock!” That was Goalie's call. A single SA-11 came up, headed for them.

Guru saw the missile, and as it tracked 512, he turned hard left and got back down low. Kara and the others saw it as well, and they did the same maneuver. The SAM break worked, for the SA-11 flew past. Guru then turned back north. “When we get back, remind me to see about crunching some balls.”

“Whose?” Goalie asked. She knew that Guru would want an opportunity target, and some were so marked on their maps.

“Somebody in the ATO shop at Tenth Air Force,” Guru muttered. “Find me an opportunity target,” he said as Dave Golen's element joined up.


At Clarette, a Soviet Lieutenant Colonel was kicking up some dirt in disgust, though he wanted to kick a particular officer. His battalion from the 140th “Borisov” SAM Brigade, which belonged to the 4th Guards Tank Army, had been sent in along with a detachment from the 144th GMRD to set up a missile and gun trap for the American aircraft that had been prowling the area. Though this was the East German rear, the Colonel had gotten his orders from the Colonel who commanded the Brigade, and those orders had come down from Army, and that meant General Suraykin. But instead of setting up a phony munitions dump or missile site, as the East Germans had done, he had found an actual supply dump that the East Germans had just established, and set up around it, much to the surprise of the East Germans, though they were glad to have the missiles around.

Each Buk (SA-11) missile vehicle had been well camouflaged, as had the ZSU-23-4s that he had been loaned, with each vehicle commander given specific orders not to fire until ordered. And yet, someone had been trigger-happy, shooting a missile after some incoming Americans who promptly evaded the single missile and turned away. Frankly, he didn't blame them, for these were fresh arrivals from the Rodina, new to combat. Still, the Colonel made a mental note to kick the vehicle commander's ass later, but he did note that the missile, though it had guided initially, had lost lock once the F-4 (at least that was what he thought the aircraft were) had dropped back down low, and there had been ECM coming not just from the target, but several others with it. Oh, well, the Colonel mused. Not this time. Maybe the Americans will come later in the day. He ordered his men to stand down, then he headed to the field kitchen. Might as well get some lunch, the Colonel thought.


“Now what?” Guru asked as Goalie checked her map. “Can't fly around here all day.”

“I'm looking,” Goalie replied as she scanned a list of opportunity targets. “Got a couple. One's another supply dump.”

“Where?”

“East of Stephenville,” Goalie said. Another one's a missile support facility, and we're headed right for it.”

“Talk to me,” Guru said. A SAM or Scud support site was definitely worth hitting. Even on a spur-of-the-moment occasion like this.

“One mile south of Paluxy,” advised Goalie. “Forty seconds away, and turn five degrees right.”

“Flight, Lead,” Guru called. “That's our new target. Firebird, did you copy?”

“Roger,” Dave Golen called back.

“Copy that, Lead,” Kara replied. Somebody back there had been trigger-happy, and was probably now going to be shot. His problem....But SA-11s? Those weren't in the brief, and she knew, not on the threat board in the Ops Office.

“Fifteen Seconds,” Goalie called. “Pull on my count.”

“Stand by to pull,” Guru told the Flight. “On me.”

“And.....PULL!”

Guru pulled back on the stick, and as he did, he looked around. But it was Sweaty who eyeballed the target.

“Lead, Sweaty,” she called. “Target at Eleven O'clock low!”

Guru rolled left, and picked it out. Almost a carbon copy of the depot they had been tasked to hit, Only this one had rows of missiles laid out on the ground. At least the EW display was clear at the moment, other than the Mainstay. No AAA, no SAMs, and no MiGs. “That's it. We'll take it. Dealer's choice as to aim points. You guys and Firebird, follow me in. Rambler One-five and One-six, do your TARCAP thing.”

“All set,” Goalie said from the back seat, stowing the map as the rest of the flight-and Firebird-acknowledged.

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


Below, at the SAM support facility, the soldiers there were going about a routine day. The missiles were a mix-some were Krug (SA-4) for the East German Army, while others were Kub (SA-6) and Romb (SA-8) for both the East Germans and the Soviets. The latter, in fact, were present in force as the 144th Guards Motor-rifle Division was refitting nearby, and the Soviets insisted on priority for the division's refit. The East Germans, who considered themselves better socialists than the Soviets, went along, though the Krugs were now regarded as nearly useless, for they were big, not that useful against maneuvering targets, not to mention easily jammed and when the missile radar vehicle was taken out, impossible to guide, for the mobile launchers had no guidance capability. The Kubs and Rombs were still useful, but even the Russians were hoping to replace them-but so far, only the Buk (SA-11) was in-theater, and not all that widely seen. Hence the reliance on the older systems.

All of that was well known to a Soviet Army Lieutenant Colonel who ran the facility along with an East German officer who held the same rank. In fact, the two allies divided up the facility according to Front's allocation of replacement missiles. Right now, since the 32nd Army to the west and the 4th Guards Tank Army to the east had the Buk in their Army-level missile brigades or about to be assigned, the Krugs were all for the East Germans. The Kubs and Rombs were shared equally, but the Colonel knew that those systems were now a little dated. Two years of combat had exposed weaknesses-especially in the Rombs-while the Kubs' weaknesses were well known, and the Americans-thanks to the Israelis in 1982, knew them full well, while the Rombs were getting to be long in the teeth as well. Maybe those draft-dodgers in white coats and carrying slide rules were working on something to help, for he'd heard that in this sector, the number of kills had gone way down, and the intelligence people who specialized in air-defense matters were trying to figure out why.

At least that's not my concern, the Colonel thought. It was a sunny day, though word had come down that a storm was due overnight and would last thorugh most of the day tomorrow. Good. The threat of air attack would go down, his men would be able to get the missiles distributed to those who needed them, and maybe they could displace and move to a new location. He was thinking about lunch when shouts came from the perimeter, and the AA gunners began swinging their weapons to the south. Tiny specks appeared, with smoke trails behind them. Air attack...... “TAKE COVER! AIR ATTACK WARNING!” The Colonel shouted it twice, then jumped into a slit trench.


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 down on the bomb run. He saw the flak begin to come up, and noted it was the light stuff, namely the 23-mm and 37-mm. No radars, he saw on the EW display, and that meant the gunners were shooting by eye alone. Not good enough, Ivan or Franz, Guru thought as he lined up some missile transporters in his pipper. Were those SA-4s? No matter, Guru said to himself as the transporters grew larger as he closed in. “Steady...And...Steady...And.....HACK!” He hit his pickle button, sending his six Mark-82s and six M-117s down onto the target. Guru then pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did. Once he was clear, the CO made the call. “Lead's off safe.”


“NYET!” That was the Colonel's shout as Guru's F-4 came in and released its bombs. He huddled in the trench with a number of others, and felt the concussion as the bombs went off. When he heard the F-4 clear the area, he glanced out of the trench, and saw that several of the Krug transporters had either been blasted apart by the bombs or tossed like toys by the shock waves. A couple were on fire, and when a missile exploded, he ducked back into the trench. The Colonel then heard the AA guns firing again. Having been bombed more than once, he knew from experience what was next.


“SHACK!” Goalie shouted from the back seat. “Got a few secondaries!”

“What kind?” Guru asked as he jinked to avoid some tracers, then jinked again as a shoulder-fired missile flew past on his right.

“Looked like missile cook-off.”

“Good enough,” Guru replied as he set course north.


“Two's in!” Kara called as she took 520 down on the target. She saw the CO's run, and the secondaries that resulted, and decided to pick other game. Spotting some large missiles on the ground, Kara lined those up in her pipper. SA-4s by the size of them, she thought. Okay, Ivan.....Better to kill the missiles on the ground than dodge them in the air. She, too, noted the flak and a couple of shoulder-fired missiles, and ignored both, concentrating on the bomb run. The missiles grew larger in the pipper as she got closer to the release point.... “Steady....Steady....And...And.....NOW!” Kara hit the pickle button, releasing her bombs, and after they came off the racks, she, too, pulled up and away, jinking to give the flak gunners and SAM-shooters a harder target. When she was clear of the target, Kara got on the radio. “Two's off target.”


In his trench, the Soviet Colonel huddled as Kara's F-4 came in. He didn't look up, but heard the aircraft come over, and also heard and felt the bombs going off. Now what? He wondered, though not aloud, for one of those in the trench was his Political Officer. Even while under air attack, the Party man would be looking out for anyone showing defeatist tendencies-something that the Colonel knew was starting to spread, with the front now back in Texas. When the F-4 was gone, he looked up, and saw where the Krugs had been laid out on the ground, awaiting shipment. Some had gone up in sympathetic detonations, while others had taken off, going across the ground in all directions. Shaking his head, he saw the AA gunners turning their ZU-23s back to the south. Knowing what that meant, he ducked back into the trench as the guns opened fire. More Americans coming....


“BULLSEYE!” Brainiac shouted from 520's back seat. “Got some secondaries!”

“How many?” Kara asked as she jinked to avoid some flak, while an SA-7 type missile flew harmlessly above 520's cockpit.

“Several, and they're good-sized. Might have had missile cook-off back there.”

“Good, as long as they fry some Russians,” Kara said as she picked up the CO's bird.


“Three in hot!” That was Sweaty's call as she came in on her run. She watched Kara pull up, and saw the results of her strike, with missiles going off down below, while others took off, some going up, others going towards trees or hills. Sweaty spotted more missiles on the ground, and selected those as her target. Ignoring the flak coming up, she lined the missiles up in her pipper, totally set on the bomb run. “Steady....Steady.....Steady.....HACK!” Sweaty hit the pickle button, and her six Mark-82s and six M-117s came off the racks. She then applied power, pulling up and away, jinking as she did so. When she cleared the target, Sweaty called, “Three's off.”


“Not now...” the Soviet Colonel said as he heard Sweaty's run. He looked at his Political Officer, and to his pleasure, the man looked properly terrified. Good, the Colonel thought as he heard the F-4 clear the area, and he wondered where the bombs had come down. A dozen explosions and several sympathetic detonations later, he stuck his head up. Looking at where the Kub missiles were stored, he saw the fires and explosions still going on, then he ducked as a missile cooked off, and headed right for him. The Kub flew overhead, and what it hit, right then he didn't care. Then the AA guns picked up again. Knowing what was coming, he wondered, Why me and why now?


“SHACK!” Preacher shouted. “Good hits!”

“Secondaries?” Sweaty asked as she pulled away, dodging some tracers and even a shoulder-fired missile as she got clear.

“Good enough,” her GIB replied.

“Sounds good to me,” she said as she picked up smoke trails ahead, then had eyeballs on the CO and Kara.

“Four in hot!” Hoser called as he went in on his run. He saw what the others had done, and spotted some vehicles near where the CO had put his bombs. The Boss missed a few, he thought, and selected those as his target. He saw the flak coming up, and ignored it as he picked out the remaining missile transporters and lined them up in his pipper. Your turn, he thought, as he approached the release point. “And...And....Steady...And....NOW!” Hoser hit his pickle button, sending his bombs down onto the target below. He then pulled away, applying power and jinking as he did, not giving the flak gunners an easy target. “Four's off target,” Hoser called when he got clear.


“Damn it!” The Soviet Colonel said, not caring if anyone heard him. He heard the AA guns open up again, then Hoser's F-4 came, and as it thundered past, it left a dozen bombs in its wake. He heard and felt the bombs going off, and after the last explosions, the Colonel took a look around. He saw where the F-4 had planted its bombs, close to where the first one had struck, and the remaining Krug missile transporters were either wrecked or on fire. Shaking his head, he started to get up and out of the trench when someone pulled him back in. He saw it was his East German counterpart, but before he could open his mouth to thank the man, the sound of AA fire started up again. More Americans? Lovely.



“BULLSEYE!” KT shouted as Hoser pulled clear. “Good hits back there.”

“Any secondaries?” Hoser asked as he dodged an SA-7, then some tracers as he maintained his jinking.

“Two or three.”

“Good enough,” replied Hoser as he dodged some tracers, then an SA-7. Then he picked up Sweaty's bird, and formed up with his element lead.


“Firbird Lead in hot!” Dave Golen called as he came in on his run. As he went in, Golen noticed that the target had been serviced pretty well, with numerous fires and secondary explosions still visible. He looked around, and noticed a truck park across the road from the target. Golen adjusted his run, then lined up some of the trucks in his pipper. He noticed the flak, and even a couple of SA-7s, but ignored both the flak and the missiles, as he concentrated on the bomb run. Your turn now, Ivan, he thought. “And...And..Steady...And....NOW!” Golen hit the pickle button, relasing his dozen bombs onto the target below. He then pulled up and away, applying power as he did so, and began jinking. When he was clear, he made the call, “Firebird Lead off target.”


“This isn't happening,” the Soviet Colonel muttered as he heard the AA guns firing, then the thunder of Dave's F-4 as it flew by. Then the bombs followed, and it sounded and felt like the bombs landed further away than the others. He poked his head up out of the trench, and saw several smoke clouds to the south, across the road from the depot. The truck park, he realized. Then he saw the AA guns swivel back to the south, and shook his head. Another American? The Colonel muttered another curse, then dropped back in the trench.

“GOOD HITS!” Terry McAuliffe shouted from Golen's back seat. “Got a few secondaries!”

“How many and how big?” Golen asked as he jinked left to avoid a missile, then right to dodge some tracers. These looked like 23-mm, he saw. Those, we can handle, he thought. Not those nasty 30-mm ones....

“Several, and they're good-sized.”

“We'll take those,” Golen replied as he jinked one more time, then headed north, picking up Sweaty's element.


“Firebird Two in hot!” Flossy called as she took 1569 down on its bomb run. She saw where Dave had planted his bombs, and noticed a number of trucks that had escaped her lead's strike. All right, Ivan, she thought. Your turn. Flossy selected a group of trucks and lined them up in her pipper, all the while ignoring the flak and a couple of SA-7s that came up her way. Keeping steady, she concentrated on her bomb run, and got ready. “And....And....And....HACK!” Flossy hit her pickle button, and her six Mark-82s and six M-117s came off the racks. She then pulled up and away, applying power and jinking to give the flak gunners and SAM shooters a harder target. Once clear, she made the call, “Firebird two off safe.”


“Sookin sin!” The Colonel shouted. Son of a bitch.....and this was shaping up to be a bitch of a day. He heard the AA gunners shooting, even the whoosh of a missile being fired, then came the thunder of Flossy's F-4 as it came by. The bombs followed, and he had a good idea as to what had been hit. He got up out of the trench, and saw more smoke and flame from the truck park. Looking around agog at the general destruction, the Colonel was at a loss for words at first, then the AA gunners shooting again brought him back to his senses. Two more F-4s thundered past, but didn't attack. A reconnaissance flight? That didn't concern him, but getting some order out of this mess did. He began shouting orders.


“Flossy's clear,” Goalie said in 512's back seat.

“Six in and out,” Guru agreed. Firebirds, join up on us. Rambler One-five and One-six, get your asses north.”

“Roger, Lead,” Golen replied, as did both Paul Jackson and Susan Napier.

“Copy all,” said Guru. “Two, you there?”

“Right with you,” Kara replied, and both Guru and Goalie took a look, seeing 520 tucked in with them in Combat Spread.

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Sweaty?”

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

“Copy, Four,” said Guru. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

The AWACS controller replied at once. “Ramber, Warlock. First threat bearing Zero-eight-zero for forty-five. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-seven-zero for fifty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-one-zero for sixty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock,” Guru said. “Bogey dope?”

“Rambler, first threats are Fishbeds. Second threats are Floggers, and third are Fulcrums.”

“Eighty seconds to the Fence,” Goalie advised.

“Roger that, Warlock,” said Guru. He got down even lower, to 400 Feet AGL, and still, the damned Mainstay radar was still there on his EW display. No fighter radars, though. Good.

“Lead, do we turn on 'em?” Kara asked. Though she knew the answer, she had to ask anyway. For the CO did want to catch up to her in terms of the squadron's kill lead, Kara knew.

“Only if we pick up their radars,” Guru replied.

“Roger,” Kara said. She knew why, but still...she wanted that tenth kill and the status of double ace.

“One minute,” said Goalie. Sixteen miles to the Fence.

The combined strike flight headed north, right over the East German 20th MRD's positions. They drew no fire, mainly because the East Germans were surprised to see American aircraft coming at them from their own rear. By the time the ZSU-23s and SA-6s were warmed up, it was too late. Though there was some small-arms fire.

“How long? Guru wanted to know as some machine-gun tracers came up after the flight.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie replied. Eight miles.

“Rambler, Warlock, threats have all turrned away,” the AWACS controller advised.

“Roger that, Warlock,” Guru said. Not this time, but one of these days, they would be in a fight again, and he knew it. Then he'd catch up to Kara, and even get past her. For he wanted that tenth kill as well.

“Crossing the fence....now,” said Goalie as the twin ribbons of I-20 appeared.

“Flight, Lead. Music off, and IFF on, out,” Guru called the flight. He glanced at the EW display, and the Mainstay's signal was off, and the SEARCH warning light was dark. After the flight acknowledged, he climbed up to altitude and headed for the tankers.

After meeting up with the tankers, and taking on fuel from the KC-135s-and for the RAF, a KC-130, the flight headed back to Sheppard. When they arrived, they were second in the pattern, after a Marine four-ship of Hornets, with two 335th flights behind them.

When cleared in, Rambler and Firebird came in and landed, and as they taxied away, those waiting were again disappointed. No kills scored this time out, but maybe next time, the ground crews watching thought. The same thoughts were shared among the news crew, who, as usual, were filming as the F-4s taxied past, canopies now open.

“Don't they ever stop?” Guru asked, shaking his head as 512 passed the newsies.

“If they did, maybe their pay would be docked,” Goalie joked.

“Guess so,” Guru said as he turned into the squadron's dispersal area.

The flight taxied in, and the crews headed to their revetments. Guru found 512's, and Sergeant Crowley guided him in. Once he was in place, Guru got the “Stop” signal, and the ground crew put the wheel chocks in place. Then came the “Shut down” signal, and both engines were shut down. After that, came the post-flight checklist, while the ground crew deployed the crew ladder. Once the checklist was done, Guru, then Goalie, climbed down from the aircraft. They did the post-flight walk-around, and only then did Sergeant Crowley come up. As usual he had bottled water for both pilot and GIB.

“Major, Lieutenant? How'd things go?” Crowley asked as he handed a bottle to the CO.

“Almost ran into a flak and missile trap,” Guru said after taking a swig of water. “Almost, that is.”

“So we found an opportunity target,” Goalie added. “Some of the SAM operators down there are going to be short of reloads.”

“For a while,” Guru grinned. “Wrap up the post-flight, Sergeant, then get yourselves some chow. You can do the turnaround once you all get some food.”

The crew chief beamed. “Yes, sir!” He turned to the ground crew. “All right, people! Let's get the post-flight done, then we get something to eat before getting the CO's bird ready for the next one! Get to it!”

“Still going to send him on R&R? Goalie asked as she and Guru headed for the revetment's entrance.

“Yeah,” Guru nodded. “He deserves one, and I'm making sure he gets it over Christmas and New Year's.

Goalie agreed. “Ordering him to have a Merry Christmas at home?”

“Something like that,” Guru said as they got to the entrance, and found Kara and Brainiac there. “Well, that was an interesting one.”

“Not every day we run into one of those,” Kara said. “Missile trap with SA-11. Somebody's fucked up on the intel estimate-again.”

Guru nodded. “Not arguing with you, and I do want somebody's balls crunched, but not Sin Licon's. He just passes down what they give him.”

Kara knew it as well. “So you want somebody's ass at Tenth Air Force?”

“Something like that,” Guru said. “So, a SAM support site got it instead.”

“It did,” said Kara. “And you had a few secondaries.”

“So did we,” Brainiac added.

“Who put that briefing together?” Sweaty roared as she and Preacher, with Hoser and KT, came up. “Nobody said a damn thing about SA-11s!”

Guru nodded sympathetically. “Down, girl, and I'm just as pissed off as you are.”

“Where'd they come from?” Hoser asked.

“Your guess is as good as anyone's,” Kara said. “Nothing on the threat board at Ops about SA-11 in the area.”

Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs came next, followed by the RAF crews. “That was fun,” Golen said. “First time I've had two targets changed on one mission.”

“Same here,” Flossy added. “Where'd those missiles come from?”

“Good question, and something we'd like to know,” Guru said. “What'd you guys hit?”

“Truck park across the road from the missile depot,” Golen replied. “You seemed to have serviced the dump pretty well. Plenty of secondaries and fires down there.”

Guru nodded. “Good to know, Dave. Too bad the MiGs didn't show,” he added for Golen's benefit and the RAF's. “First time for SA-11?” The CO asked Dave Gledhill.

“On land, yes,” Gledhil replied, and his people nodded. “But at sea? We were told not to get too close to a Red Convoy if they had Sovremmeny destroyers. They have SA-N-7, and it's the same type of missile as SA-11. Even has the same code name: Gadfly.”

“Same missile?” Brainiac asked.

“So they say,” Gledhill replied. “No way to know for sure-yet.”

“Save that for later,” Guru said. “Be glad somebody down there was trigger-happy. Otherwise I'd be writing letters-or Mark Ellis would, and some of us would've been skydiving.”

“Happy thoughts,” Sweaty said. “Not.”

Guru winced at that. “No. Once was enough, mind.”

“So now what?” Jang asked.

Guru said, “We debrief, and don't tear into Sin Licon. He just passes down what they tell him.”

“You know the Intel Community's motto, Boss,” Preacher said. “We're betting your life.”

The CO knew it. “We all know it. And today, somebody was betting just that. Okay, let's debrief. Then get the armchair warriors out of the way, and chow down. Because in an hour and a half, max, we're back at it.” It was 1145.

“Third quarter,” Flossy said.

“It will be,” said Guru. “Let's go.”
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  #529  
Old 03-15-2020, 12:10 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The flying day continues; some FNGs arrive:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX; 1215 Hours Central War Time:



Major Matt Wiser sat in his office, going over some papers. Why couldn't the paper-pushers leave those fighting the war to do their jobs, he wondered. The CO had no use for bureaucracy and those who inhabited that maze, and yet, he also knew that they kept the warfighters supplied so that they could go out and put the hurt on the bad guys. And yet, some of their memos reminded him how out-of-touch some of the paper-pushers were, for there was yet another memo criticizing the “excessive” expenditure of 20-mm ammo. Guru was half a mind to feed the offending memo to the shredder, but decided to keep it to show to General Tanner the next time the Tenth Air Force's Commanding General came by, or better yet, General “Sundown” Cunningham, the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Scuttlebutt had it that General Cunningham was coming by after Thanksgiving sometime, and if Frank was still around, Cunningham was likely to kick the snobby major off base-and do some more ass-kicking to the bureaucrats when the CO showed the General the memo.

He had finished the papers and put what needed to go in his OUT box, when there was a knock on the office door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself!”

Goalie came in, with two plastic bags and a carrier for drinks. “Lunchtime,” she said. “Barbeque chicken sandwiches with Cole slaw and corn on the cob. And lemonade.”

“Good,” Guru replied, taking his bag and opening the container inside. He opened the Styrofoam container, but before he ate, he said, “You're not going to believe this.”

“What?” His GIB asked as she got ready to eat.

“This.” Guru showed her the memo. “I'd like to give these guys a rifle and send them into the infantry.”

She read it and shook her head. “Lovely,” Goalie spat.

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Let's eat.”

As they ate, they discussed squadron-related matters, and then their previous mission came back up.
“We came close,” Goalie said in between bites. “That SAM trap was laid on pretty good.”

“It was,” Guru agreed. He had to respect an enemy's competence when called for. “Be glad ALQ-119 works against SA-11, and that somebody down there was trigger-happy.”

“And he probably earned himself a trip to a penal battalion.” Goalie let out a chuckle at that.

“Or a bullet in the back of the head,” Guru added.

“Either one's acceptable,” said Guru.


They had just finished lunch when there was another knock on the door. “Yeah?” Guru said. “Come on in and show yourself!”

The Exec, Mark Ellis, came in. “Boss, got a couple things for you, and heard about your SA-11.”

“Word travels fast,” Goalie observed, though she-like the others, knew it from the experiences of others, and some of those were not good.

“It does,” the XO admitted. “Any advice?”

“Unless you've got folks with antiradar missiles around-like Weasels or IRON HAND? Abort. Find yourself an opportunity target,” said Guru.

Ellis nodded. “Will do, Boss,” he said. “Got these for you.” He handed the CO a couple of papers.

“What's this?”

“Updated weather report. Storm's still coming in, right on schedule.”

“So we get our stand-down,” Guru noted. “What else is there?”

The Exec handed the CO another paper. “Newbies are here. They came in on a C-130 half an hour ago.”

“How many?”

“Two crews,” the XO said. “Only one of 'em is a vet, the rest are fresh from Kingsley Field.”

Guru nodded. Not what he wanted, but then again, how many other CO s were in the same boat? Wanting veterans and getting mostly newbies out of the RTU. Oh, well.... “They outside?”

“Yeah,” said Ellis. “You want to see 'em now, I suppose?”

“That I do, and tell me we've got billeting space?”

The Exec nodded. “We do, Boss. Want me to bring 'em in?”

“Go ahead,” the CO said.

Ellis opened the office door and waved the four new men in. All were in their dress blues with field caps, and they saluted the CO upon entering.

Guru returned the salutes, then got things off. “My name's Major Matt Wiser. All right, you're with the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the Chiefs, or as some folks also add, with some pride, 'The Air Force's Bastard Orphans.' We're OPCON to Marine Air Group 11, and have been since the early days of the war. Second, you are now on a base at war, so we can dispense with the jumping up-and-down foolishness you learned at either the Academy, ROTC, or knife-and-fork. There is still a significant fixed-wing threat, a substantial TBM threat, and there's also Spetsnatz to worry about. So we're pretty informal around, here, everybody packs a weapon, and no need for snappy salutes or dressing up. Understood?”

“YES, SIR!” The four shouted.

I hope you do, the CO thought. He nodded at a Japanese-American Captain who was the senior of the four. “Captain...Hasegawa? Let's see your orders and personnel jacket.”

“Yes, sir,” Captain Terry Hasegawa said, handing that material to his new CO.

Guru scanned the Captain's file. “Impressive. ROTC, University of Hawaii. First in your class, then first in UPT.” That meant Undergraduate Pilot Training. “You asked for F-4s?”

“Yes, sir,” Hasegawa replied. “Dad flew F-4s in Vietnam: LINEBACKER I and II, so...”

“And so you did,” Guru finished. He read on. “You were with the 35th?” He meant the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing-the Wild Weasels.

“Yes, sir,” the Captain nodded. “Flew with the 563rd TFS. E models in the Hunter-Killer team.”

Goalie recognized it at once. “You're following up the Gs after they shoot their HARM or Shrike, with dumb bombs or CBUs.”

“That's right. What got me was an SA-11. Dislocated shoulder and a broken leg, with some first-degree burns. GIB didn't get out.”

“Where?” Guru asked.

“Near Vaughn, New Mexico, Day two of PRAIRIE FIRE,” Hasegawa said. “Some rancher and his son found me, and took me in. Ivan was too busy trying to hold off First Cav to look for a downed pilot, and they never looked around, far as I know. After the Cav arrived, I was on the shelf until last month. Then requalifying, and, well, here I am.”

“Glad to have you here, Captain. And if you have any pointers on how to deal with SA-11, we'd like to know. Because there are two people in this room-” Guru pointed to himself and Goalie- “Who nearly ran afoul of an SA-11 trap this morning, and any information you have would be greatly appreciated.”

Hasegawa nodded. “Yes, sir. I'll pass on what I know.”

“Good,” Guru nodded. “You have a call sign?”

“Samurai, and that comes from my being pretty good at Kendo.” He saw puzzled looks, and explained. “Japanese fencing.”

Goalie nodded herself. “And your buddies at Flight or the RTU found out, and so...”

“That's about it.” Hasegawa noticed Goalie's silver bar and navigator wings. The fact that she was here with the CO meant that she was his GIB. Not that it was his business...

Mark Ellis spoke up next. “Any of your relatives in the plastic model business?” Hasegawa Models were known the world over, and he had built some-and so had the CO, for one of their 1/72 scale F-105s sat on Guru's desk.

“Maybe a distant cousin I don't know,” the captain shrugged. “Been asked that more than once.”

Guru smiled. “In that case....” He held out his hand. “Welcome to the Chiefs.”

“Thank you, sir,” Hasegawa grinned.

“You're welcome, Captain,” Guru said. He turned to a big blond fellow who looked to be as tall as he was and had silver bars on his shoulders and navigator wings on his left breast. “And you are?”

“First Lieutenant Dave Lundquist, sir,” the man replied. He handed Guru his own orders and jacket.

Guru opened the orders, and then the jacket. He then looked up. “Academy?”

“Yes, sir,” Lundquist nodded. “Technically, I'm class of '87.”

Goalie was surprised, though not completely. Both Annapolis and West Point had graduated the class of '42 a couple of weeks after December 7, 1941, while making the rest go onto an accelerated three-year program. Though she had helped evacuate the Academy in her C-130 days a few days into the war, what happened after getting them all to Beale AFB in California wasn't on her mind-flying into Denver with food, ammo, medicine, and then flying people out was. “That's a first for us, though. Wartime Academy grad.”

“It is,” Guru nodded. “Any problems working with ROTC or OTS alumni? For your information, I'm the latter.” All four newbies looked at him. “I was a First Lieutenant and a veteran of six months in this very squadron when the balloon went up. There were twenty-four birds and thirty-six crews in this squadron on Invasion Day. Now, there's maybe eight or ten original birds and ten individual aircrew who are Day One vets, plus another vet who was at another base. This squadron's been at it since Day One, so remember that.”

“Yes, Major,” the new guy replied. “And no problem with ROTC or OTS people. One of my instructors
at Mather was ROTC and another up at Kingsley Field.” Mather AFB near Sacramento was the AF's Navigator Training School, which handled training for navigators west of the Rockies these days. Guru and the others had heard that the Navy handled the training for AF navs on the East Coast-something that, prewar, would've been unheard of.

Guru looked at him. Good for you, he thought. “All right, then.” He scanned Lundquist's file. “Physics major and biology minor? You have aspirations, I take it. Do those include NASA?”

“Yes, sir. I know I can't be a shuttle pilot because I'm not a pilot. But there's always Mission Specialist.”

Goalie looked at him, then Guru. “He'll fit in with Cosmo.”

“He will. We've got a former grad student in Astronomy who's now flying F-4s. You and her might just have a few things to talk about.”

Ludquist's face let out a grin. “We just might, Major.”

“Sounds good.” Guru put out his hand. “Welcome to the Chiefs.”

“Thanks, Major,” the big Swede said as he and the CO shook hands.

“Glad to have you,” Guru said. He turned to the next guy, a fellow who looked like he'd once played football, and not in the backfield. Like Lundquist, he wore First Lieutenant's insignia and nav wings. “And you?”

“Mark Walker, Major,” he replied. “Out of Richfield, Utah and BYU.” He, too, handed the CO his orders and jacket.

“Says here you dropped out of your Junior year at BYU to join up,” Guru said. “OTS, then nav, and F-4s.” Then something caught his eye. “Business major?”

Walker nodded. “That's right, sir.”

“Says here you've got 20/10 vision in one eye and 20/30 the other. That explains you as a nav, but you're also a rated private pilot?”

“Learned to fly from Dad, and I've got 300 hours in his Cessna 172 and a Beechcraft Baron. As long as I wear a contact in the bad eye? I'm fine.”

Hearing that, Ellis asked, “Did you try and get a waiver into Flight Training?”

“Yes, sir, I did,” said Walker. “Must've had the wrong review board, because my request was denied. But I ran into a couple of guys at Kingsley Field who had the same vision I did, and they were in the front seat.”

“Different review board,” the XO commented.

“Guess so,” the CO added. “Okay, any problems with female aircrew? Some folks from your neck of the woods do have an issue with that.”

Walker shook his head. “No, sir, and I'm not going to argue with somebody's record just because they're female.” He looked at Goalie, and saw her fruit salad. Especially the DFC and Silver Star ribbons. “I gather there's a few in this squadron?”

“There are,” Guru said. “And two pilot and two GIB aces, as a matter of fact. Along with two F-4s that are, well, 'unmanned'.”

“All-female crews,” Goalie added.

“And several other aircrew,” said the CO. “Any problems?”

Walker shook his head again. “No, sir.”

“All right,” Guru said, extending his hand. “Welcome to the Chiefs.”

“Thanks, sir.”

“Glad to have you with us,” Guru said. He nodded at the fourth arrival, who wore pilot's wings and the bar of a First Lieutenant, and looked like he'd been a wrestler in school. “And you?”

“Pat Erickson, sir,” he said, handing his orders and jacket over. “University of Wyoming via a small town near Rochester, Minnesota.”

Guru nodded and went over the man's jacket. “Says here you were working on a Physics major and a minor in P.E.” He looked up. “Going to be a teacher?”

“Yes, Major,” Erickson nodded back. “But the Russians had other plans, and so, here I am.”

“So you are,” the CO said. “Well, when this is over and you've fulfilled your commitment to the Air Force, you can go back to school, then tell your students what you did in World War Three.”

“If he makes it to the end,” Goalie observed. She was matter-of-fact about it, as the CO and XO knew.

The Exec nodded. “That little factor is always there,” he said.

Guru agreed. “It is. Now how'd you wind up in Wyoming?”

Erickson smiled. “Baseball scholarship. Played Third base and Shortstop in high school, and the same in College. If not for this war, I'd be in my Senior year right now.”

“Looks like we've got a ringer when we play the Jarheads in a pickup baseball game,” Goalie grinned. She had played softball at the Air Force Academy, how many years or lifetimes back? Several, she knew.

“That we do,” Guru noted. “All right....top fifteen percent in your OTS class. Top twenty-five percent in UPT.” His head perked up. “Says here you asked for F-16s?”

The ex-baseball player nodded. “Everybody wants either F-15s or -16s, seems like. Asked for F-16s first, then -15s. They were also asking for people to sign up for the F-20, so that was my third choice. Opened my orders, and they said 'Kingsley Field, Oregon.'”

Guru looked at him sympathetically. Not everybody got what they wanted, in peacetime, and especially so in wartime. “The Viper's loss is Double-Ugly's gain. You might want to keep that in mind.” Then something occurred to him. “How long ago were they recruiting people for the F-20?”

“About a month ago,” Erickson replied. “You sound like that's important, sir.”

“Just curious. We had some F-20s here a week ago, and they were demonstrating the bird, and trying to poach Phantom Phanatics into that little toy.”

“Ah, I see. Well, sir, that's that.”

“It is,” the CO nodded, holding his hand out. “Welcome to the Chiefs.”

“Thanks, Major,” replied Erickson as he shook Guru's hand.

“You're welcome, Lieutenant. Now, for your information, we're in the air-to-mud league for the most part. Eighty percent of our tasking is hitting targets on the ground. That means BAI, Counter-air, and even CAS. Now that doesn't mean that we don't accept the occasional MiG or helo we run across, or if we're jumped by the bad guys. We do have our share of aces, but nobody has a score in the double-digits, if you know what I mean.” Heads nodded at that, then the CO went on. “Also, eighty percent of our losses are people who don't make it to ten missions. Get past that, and your chances of survival go up considerably.”

“Forget about rotating out,” Ellis added. “We're in this for the long haul. Just like the Luftwaffe, the Japanese, or the Russians in WW II. “The one thing that keeps you from burning out are stand-down days like we have coming up tomorrow, and your time on R&R. You get two two-week periods during the year.”

Goalie then said, “The only way out is to be either KIA/MIA/POW, you do get burned out and the flight surgeon grounds you for a while, or somebody at Training Command asks for you.”

“That's how it is,” Guru said. “Now, there is a significant Spetsnatz threat to this base. And the Marines we're OPCON to take the 'Everyone a rifleman' saying very seriously. After the XO shows you to your billets, he will take you to Captain Ryan Blanchard and her Combat Security Police. You will draw a long gun and a pistol from them, and she and her people will instruct you in the care, feeding, and use of such firearms. Is that clear?”

“YES, SIR!” All four shouted.

“Good. All right, two more things. First, there's a snobby Major who's been a PITA to everyone in this squadron in particular and MAG-11 as a whole. He's a Frank Burns wannabe, a would-be martinet, and personifies the worst of Academy grads-he hates anyone not wearing an Academy class ring, has no use for ROTC or OTS alumni, and thinks enlisted and NCOs are serfs and he's the lord. Just give him the polite minimum and you'll be fine.”

“How bad is he, Major?” Hasegawa asked.

“Bad enough,” Guru replied. “Now, tonight you're all newbies. Tomorrow? Fellow animals in the zoo. Watch out for Captain Kara Thrace. She dominates the pool table and poker games, and do not play pool with her unless it's a friendly, and don't play poker unless you've got money in your wallet.”

All four looked at each other. “They did warn us about her, Major, when people found out we were coming to the 335th,” Lundquist said. “She's that bad?”

“She is,” Goalie said. “Don't get into debt with her. For she has an 'alternate payment plan.'”

“They did warn us about that as well.” Nothing more needed to be said, for word traveled fast about Kara's antics. All they needed to know they could pick up from anyone who'd been on the Trans-Pacific ferry run.

“Good. See that you remember all of that. Any other questions?” Guru asked the four. Heads shook no.

“No, sir,” Hasegawa said.

“Good. Welcome to the 335,” Guru said, shaking their hands. “Mark?”

“You guys come with me,” the XO said. “Get you billeted, then over to the CSPs.”

After Ellis had left with the four, Goalie looked at the CO. “Memories?”

Guru thought for a moment. “Yeah. Almost three years or three lifetimes, it seems. Reported in with Mark, Don, and Tim Cain. He had two other GIBs with him.” Memories of he and his friends' first day came back, realizing that they were now on the bottom of the totem pole in the squadron, and yet, they were going to do what they joined the Air Force to do: fly fighters.

“And who's left?”

“Mark, Don, and myself. The GIBs? All KIA or MIA,” Guru said. “You?”

“When I got to Little Rock and my old C-130 outfit?” Goalie asked. “It was 'Too bad you're a female, because with your Academy and UNT record, you'd be a fighter WSO or a SAC radar navigator. So make the best of it.”

“And you did, until they changed the law.”

“I did. Still got some good memories from those days, and some bad ones. Denver, especially.”

“I know: you've told some of those stories. And seeing a 747 take fire and crash after takeoff with five hundred people stuffed into it had to be no fun. We've flown over that wreck when we took our shots at the siege, remember?”

“Yeah, and it doesn't make that memory any better. Hardly anyone got out, and hope to God we put the hurt on the guys who did it. If not us, then they got caught in the retreat south or in the Pueblo Pocket and they paid for it.”

Guru nodded, then gave her a hug. “You've got your memories, and I've got mine. Some good, others, mighty bad.”

“We all do,” she said. “And what do we do about it?”

He had a ready-made answer. “The best we can,” Guru said. She was right, though: Some private time together was well overdue. “You mentioned some bedroom gymnastics? With the stand-down tomorrow? We can sleep in.”

Goalie let out a grin from ear-to-ear. “Sounds good to me.”

Then a knock on the door interrupted. “Yeah?” Guru said. “Show yourself and come on in!”

Kara came in, and saw the both of them still embracing. “Did I interrupt something?”

“Just a mutual hug when we both needed one,” Goalie said.

“She's right,” Guru replied. “What's up?”

“We've got a mission,” Kara said. “Us and the Brits. It's a six-ship for strike, in case you're wondering.”

“Dave and Flossy, then,” Guru said, seeing Kara nod. “And the Brits?”

“Dave Gledhill's element.”

“Guess we just got the kickoff for the second half,” Goalie said.

“We did,” Guru agreed. “Halftime's over, and time to get back in the game.” He looked at Goalie, then Kara. “Get everybody to the briefing room.”

“How soon?”

“In ten,” Guru said, putting his game face on.

Goalie and Kara looked at each other and nodded. “Got it,” Kara said.

“No rest for the weary or the wicked,” Goalie said as she went to Kara.

“We'll rest after the war, or when we're dead.” Guru replied.

Both knew the CO was right. “We're gone,” Kara said. And both headed out the door.

Goalie's right, Guru thought to himself. We do need some time together. He took a deep breath, then went out himself, and as he did, his Staff Sergeant secretary said, “Good luck, Boss,”

“Thanks, Trish,” the CO replied. Then he went to the Ops Office and found the Ops Officer waiting. “Don,” Guru said. “Kara says I've got a mission?”

“You do,” Van Loan replied, handing him the folder.

Guru opened the folder and scanned the mission summary. He looked at his Ops Officer. “We hit something like this for an opportunity target a couple of hours ago.”

“I heard,” Ops said. “This one's Soviet, and it's the guys who got chewed up a couple of weeks ago-back when General Olds came, and General Yeager's pups helped out.”

“Regimental laager, and these guys are reequipping,” Guru noticed. “Tell me someone in my flight's got Mavericks.”

“Dave and Flossy do,” Van Loan said. “You get the Rockeyes or dumb bombs.”

“Thanks, Don,” the CO said. “You be careful out there. Keep a lookout for SA-11s.”

“After what you guys ran into?” Van Loan replied, “Will do, and be careful your own self.”

Guru shook his hand. “Always.” Then he headed to the Briefing Room his flight used, and went in. He found the rest of his flight there, and Buddy, the mascot, already curled up and asleep. “Okay, folks. Hope you enjoyed halftime, because the third quarter's ready to kick off.”

“Where are we headed?” Sweaty asked.

“Morgan, west of Lake Whitney,” the CO replied. “There's a regimental-sized laager north of the town, and we get to put the hammer down on 'em.”

“Aren't these the same guys who gave us the first ZSU-30 scare?” Hoser asked.

“They are, and that's why Dave and Flossy are coming with us,” said Guru. He turned to their IDF “Observer”. “You two have six Mavericks each. Kill any air-defense assets you see, and opportunity targets if you run out.” The CO passed around some RF-4C and SR-71 imagery of the target area.

Dave Golen smiled. “It'll be a pleasure.” Though if MiGs came, that meant only two Sparrows and a full cannon load.

“We'll take them out,” Flossy added.

“Good. Kara?” Guru turned to his wingmate. “You and I have Rockeyes.”

Kara nodded. “Gotcha, Boss.” She preferred the CBUs for dealing with armor.

“And us?” Sweaty asked, nodding in Hoser's direction.

“Mark-82s with half having the Daisy Cutter fuze extensions,” Guru said.

Preacher looked at one of the pictures. “This a tank or motor-rifle regiment?”

“Motor-rifle, looks like,” Guru replied. The intel sheet didn't say. “As for defenses? Expect regimental level, and that means ZSU-23-4 at least, if not ZSU-30, plus SA-9 or -13.”

“What about heavier stuff?” KT asked.

“Good question. The division these guys belong to had SA-11, but they got chewed up along with the rest of the division, Intel says. Expect a mix: SA-6 or -8, and any remaining SA-11s along with 'em.”

Flossy then asked, “We getting Weasels?”

“Negative,” said Guru. “So we make a few fake “Magnum” calls. In fact, why don't you and Dave do that when you take your Maverick shots?”

“And watch as their radars all shut down to avoid HARMs, and they eat Mavericks instead,” Dave Golen grinned. “I like it.”

“Boss, anyone tell you that you can be a sneaky bastard?” Kara said.

“More than once,” Guru nodded. “One other thing before moving on: we'll be in range of the Hillsboro SA-2, so watch for flying telephone poles.”

“Too far away, and we'll be too low,” Preacher said.

“You never know,” Guru reminded him-and the others. Now, the MiG threat is unchanged since this morning, and the closest MiGs are at James Connally AFB and Waco Regional, and those are Floggers and Fishbeds.”

Dave Gledhill looked at his map. “Closest Fulcrums?”

“Gray AAF at Fort Hood and Bergstrom AFB, which is where the Flankers are,” Guru replied.

Heads nodded at that. Nothing new here. “Okay, Boss, usual way in?” Hoser asked.

“Negative,” Guru said, letting out an evil-looking grin. “We're going in the back way.”

“Back way?” Sweaty asked.

Guru repeated his grin. “We tank up as usual near Mineral Wells at Tanker Track ARCO. Then we get south to the town of Ranger on I-20. Pick up the Leon River, and follow that to Proctor Lake-that's also State Route 16, and the seam between the East Germans to the east, and the Soviet 32nd Army to the west. When we get close to the Proctor Lake Dam, turn to a heading of 110, and head for the town of Fairy-which we've used before. Hit Fairy, then it's Zero-five-zero to Morgan. Our IP is State Route 6 and the Meridian State Park. Pop up, ID your targets-and it's dealer's choice again-then strike. Once clear, get your asses north to the Brazos, and we'll get into the Nicaraguan sector again. Follow the Brazos until we get to the I-20.”

“The reverse of some of what we've been doing,” Kara smiled. “I like it, Boss.”

“So do I,” Dave Golen added.

“Usual air-to-air?” Goalie asked. She, too, wanted the chance at another scalp on her belt.

“Four Sidewinders, two Sparrow-Fs, except for Dave and Flossy-all they get are two Sparrow-Fs, ECM pods and gun. For the rest of us? Full gun, usual ECM pods,and two wing tanks.” Guru nodded at Dave Gledhill. “The Other Dave?”

Hearing that, Gledhill laughed. “Four Sidewinder-Ls, four Sky Flash, SUU-23 pod, and two wing tanks, as usual.”

Guru nodded. Just the usual. “Sounds good, Dave. Any other questions?”

“Buddy's asleep,” KT said, gesturing at the dog, curled up and getting some sun shining through a window.

“Let him sleep,” Sweaty nodded. “Uh, Boss.”

“I would've said the same thing,” Guru laughed as an Ops NCO came to collect the briefing materials. “That's it. Gear up and get ready to fly. Meet at 512.”

The crews headed to their respective locker rooms to gear up. When Guru came out of the Men's, wearing G-suit, survival vest, helmet in hand, and packing his sidearm, he found Goalie waiting, as usual, and similarly attired. “Ready?”

“Two more, then we can knock off for a day,” she grinned. “Let's get it done.”

“Then let's go.” They left the squadron office, then headed out to the dispersal area. When they got to 512's revetment, the rest of the crews were waiting. “Gather 'round, people.”

“Usual on the radio?” Kara asked. That meant call signs between them, and mission code to AWACS and other parties.

“That it is,” Guru nodded. “Bailout areas are still unchanged: that means anywhere rural and away from roads. Lake Whitney-if you're hit at the target-will do in a pinch.”

Flossy asked, “And those basketball-sized tracers?”

“If we encounter them at the target? You and Dave kill them,” Guru said firmly. “If we get some before? Evade, and mark the location.”

“Gotcha, Boss,” said Kara.

“All right, people! Don't get complacent,” Guru reminded them. “That gets people killed or worse,” he said.

“Got you, Major,” Sweaty replied, and when people used his rank, that signaled to Guru that they were taking him very seriously indeed.

“Good. We're still Rambler Flight. Now, I know you're looking forward to the stand-down, but we've still got the afternoon to get through,” said the CO. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right!” Guru clapped his hands for emphasis. “Let's fly. Time to hit it. Meet at ten grand overhead.”

The crews headed to their aircraft, and as Guru and Goalie went into the revetment, the Crew Chief, Sergeant Crowley, was waiting. He snapped a perfect salute as usual, and both Guru and Goalie returned it. “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve's ready to rock and kick some more Commie ass.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Guru replied. He and Goalie did the usual preflight walk-around, then climbed the crew ladder and mounted their aircraft. After getting strapped into their seats, putting on and then plugging in their helmets, they went through the preflight checklist.

As they were doing so, Goalie said, “Any idea when they want us at Nellis? And ejection seats?”

“No idea, but it'll be soon,” Guru replied. “Armed top and bottom. Check yours. Arnie?”

“A night on the strip after we brief the brass,” Goalie thought out loud. “Mine's armed, and Arnie's up and going.” That was the ARN-101 DMAS system and the backup INS.

“They'll be packed,” Guru reminded her. “That's the biggest R&R destination west of the Rockies.”

“There'll be room for two more,” Goalie said. “Preflight checklist complete and ready for engine start.”

“Roger that,” said Guru. He gave a thumbs-up to his Crew Chief, and Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal. First one, then two, J-79 engines were up and running. “Wouldn't mind a night like that myself.” Once the warmup was complete, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Lead with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A controller got back to him right away-and this one was female. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you are number two in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Rambler Lead is rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up to Sergeant Crowley, who waved to the ground crew. They removed the crew ladder and then pulled the chocks away from the wheels. Guru then released the brakes, and following Crowley's “Taxi” signal, taxied out of the revetment. Once clear, Crowley snapped another perfect salute, and again, both Guru and Goalie returned it.

Guru taxied towards the runway, and as he did, the rest of the flight fell in behind him. When 512 got to the holding area, there was a four-ship of Marine F/A-18s ahead of him. Both had to wait while a C-130 came in to land, and once it taxied clear, the Marines taxied onto the runway. After they launched, it was Rambler's turn to enter the holding area. There, as usual, the armorers removed the weapon safeties. Then Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

The same controller replied. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are Two-five-five for eight.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru replied, then he taxied 512 onto the runway. Kara followed in 520, and tucked right with him in the Five O'clock position. One final check, then he glanced over, where Kara and Brainiac were going through with their final checks. Then it was time. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the tower didn't reply by radio, but flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Ready as I'll ever be,” Goalie replied. “Let's get it done.”

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said, closing and locking his canopy.

Goalie did the same, and both looked over at 520, whose crew had also closed their canopies, and gave thumbs-ups. The crew in 512 returned them, and it was time.

“Let's go,” Guru said. He firewalled the throttles, released the brakes, and 512 rumbled 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 Golen and Flossy, with the RAF element bringing up the rear. The flight met up at FL 100, then they headed south for their tanker rendezvous.
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  #530  
Old 03-15-2020, 12:13 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The strike, and some air-to-air action:




Over Central Texas: 1330 Hours Central War Time:


Rambler Flight was headed south, having cleared the I-20 and was now in enemy territory. They had joined up with the tankers over Pleasant Kingdom Lake, west of Mineral Wells, and while the 335th birds topped up from KC-135s, the two RAF F-4Js had joined up with their own Tristar to top up. Now, they were back down in the weeds, going for their target by the back door.

In 512, Guru was watching his instruments, then taking a look around. Keeping his head on a swivel had been drummed into his head at the RTU before the war, and having eyes out of the cockpit was very conducive to a long lifespan. He then took a look at his EW display, and for once, the round screen was blank. “No Mainstay radar.”

Goalie grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “Yet.” That was the operative word, and both of them knew it.

“So far, so good,” Guru said as he picked up the Leon River, and turned to follow it. The rest of the flight followed him as he followed the river south. “How far to the lake?” He meant Lake Proctor and their first navigation checkpoint.

“Twenty seconds to Route 16,” Goalie replied. That meant State Route 16, which formed the boundary between the East Germans to the east, and the Soviet 32nd Army to the west. “One minute to the lake.”

“Roger that,” said Guru. Just then he saw a strobe come up on the EW display, and it was to the south. Not very bright, he noticed, then the SEARCH warning light came on. He had a good idea what it was. “Spoke too soon, because guess who's up and active?”

“Mainstay again,” spat Goalie. It wasn't a question from her tone of voice. “Love to get somebody to do something about those.”

“Maybe somebody's thinking of it, just like we're cooking up something,” Guru reminded her as Highway 16 appeared. “There's the road.”

“Got it,” Goalie said, back to business. “Forty seconds to the lake.”

“Copy.”

The flight followed Highway 16, skirting the town of De Leon as they did. As they did, the locals in the town took note, and cheered, much to the disgust of the garrison-the 511th MRR from the 155th MRD, 32nd Army. The regimental commander, who had been the commander of the Regiment's second battalion before the regiment had assumed its current positions, shook his head. The sooner he and his men were back in action, the better. At least I have a political officer who's not concerned about that, he thought. For the last thing he wanted was any kind of underground or Resistance activity. Not that such things were out of the question: his own intelligence officer, not to mention division's, as well as the GRU Field Security Unit, were convinced the Resistance was just laying low, and biding its time. Just as long as I'm not around when they come out, the Lieutenant Colonel thought.


“There's the lake,” Guru said as Proctor Lake came into view. “Time to turn?”

“Fifteen seconds to the dam,” Goalie replied. “Steady....Now ten, and five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned left, to a heading of 110, just as the flak gunners at the dam spotted them and opened fire. The 23-mm, 37-mm, and 57-mm fire missed, as the strike flight turned to the southeast. “On track. How long to Fairy?” The spot on the map-and not much else-was their next checkpoint.

“One minute thirty,” said Goalie. “Twenty-four miles.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. Then he called the AWACs. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

A controller got back to him right away. “Rambler, Warlock. First threat bearing Two-three-five for thirty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing Two-three-zero for forty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-two-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing One-six-zero for seventy. Medium, going away.”

“Roger, Warlock,” said Guru. “Say bogey dope.”

“Rambler, first threats are Fishbeds, and second threats are Floggers. Third and fourth are Fulcrums.”

“Copy all,” Guru replied. MiG-29s? That'll make Kara, Dave Golen, and the RAF happy.

“One minute to Fairy,” Goalie advised.

“Roger that,” Guru replied, checking his EW display. So far, just the Mainstay's radar, but the bad guys could be taking cues from the Mainstay controllers, and stalking them with their radars off. He had then had his eyes out of the cockpit, keeping up his visual scanning, but coming in at 450 Feet AGL and 500 KIAS would hopefully keep the Mainstay's radar from picking them up.

The Texas hills flew by as Rambler Flight continued on course. The pilots concentrated on flying, checking their instruments-with a particular attention to the EW display, and maintaining their visual scanning, while the GIBs watched the navigation, and had a second pair of eyes out.

“Thirty seconds to Fairy,” Goalie advised. “Eight miles.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. His head was on a swivel, watching the instruments, then scanning visually.

“Coming up on the turn,” said Goalie. “Ready to count.”

“Give it to me.”

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

Guru turned left, turning onto a course of Zero-five-zero. “Steady on new course,” he called. A quick check of the EW display still showed only the Mainstay signal. “And the Mainstay's still there.”

“What else is new?” Goalie quipped. She checked her own display, and saw the same thing. “One minute thirty to target. One minute to IP.”

“Copy all,” Guru said. Then it was time for another call to the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

A controller on the E-3B got back to him. “Rambler Lead, Warlock. Threat bearing Two-seven-zero for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-eight-five for forty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Zero-nine-zero for sixty. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Zero-six-five for sixty-five. Medium, going away.”

“Roger, Warlock. Do you have Bogey Dope?”

“Rambler, Warlock. First and second are Fulcrums. Third and fourth are Floggers.”

Guru replied, “Rambler Lead copies.” MiG-23s on the way out? That would be better than Fulcrums.

“Rambler, Warlock. Additional threat bearing One-six-zero for eighty. Medium, closing. Bandits are Flankers.”

“Copy.”

“Flankers?” Goalie asked. “Thirty seconds to pull.”

“Our lucky day,” Guru replied. “Set 'em up.” He meant the armament controls.

“On it,” said Goalie as she worked the armament control panel, setting up the ordnance. “All set. Everything in one.”

“Roger that.” It was almost time. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, Music on, and stand by to pull,” Guru called to the flight. He then turned on his ALQ-119 ECM pod.

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied, and the others did the same.

“Fifteen seconds,” said Goalie.

“Start the count,” Guru said.

“Pull in ten, now five, four, three, two, one, PULL!”

Guru pulled back on the stick as State Route 6 and the Meridian State Park appeared. The flight climbed, and as they did, radars started coming on. “One-five, one-six, do your thing.”

“Roger, Lead,” Dave Golen called back. He and Flossy shot ahead, then he called out, “Miller One-five, MAGNUM!” But instead of a Shrike or HARM, it was a Maverick that he sent on its way.

Flossy was next. “Miller One-six. MAGNUM!” Another Maverick left the rails.

Just as the second “Magnum” call was made, the radars in the area, either ZSU-23-4 or SA-6 from Meridian proper-all shut down. None of the Russians down below wanted to eat an antiradar missile if they could avoid it....

“Dave and Flossy at work,” Goalie said.

“They are,” Guru said. He picked out the town of Morgan, which was the target. “Morgan dead ahead. Flight, Lead. Time to go in.” As he made the call, Flossy made another call, and a Maverick shot after a target.

“Roger that, Boss!” Kara called back.

“All set?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Ready when you are,” she replied.

“Time to do it.” Guru then rolled 512 in on the bomb run.


In Morgan, the 254th Guards “Matrosova” MRR, 144th Guards Motor-rifle Division, had its headquarters. The regiment-along with the rest of the division, had been roughly handled in its first combat experience a couple of weeks prior, and was now resting and refitting. However, the regiment's motor-rifle battalions, which had been equipped with BTR-70s when they deployed, was now being equipped with BTR-60PBs, though the tank battalion had, instead of the T-72As originally issued, T-72M1s from the production line in Czechoslovakia. His artillery battalion was better off, receiving new D-30 122-mm howitzers, but his air defense battalion was not in very good shape. Instead of the 2S6 Tunguskas they had deployed with-and given a good account of themselves before taking heavy losses to Yankee attack aircraft and armor-had been taken away by 4th Guards Tank Army and ZSU-23-4s and Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher) launchers issued instead.

The Regimental Commander had survived, though many of his subunit commanders hadn't. The man had been a Lieutenant Colonel when the division had deployed, but was now a Colonel. Then he had to make a whole raft of personnel changes, promoting some officers into slots that had to be filled, though at least one was by necessity-promoting the only surviving company commander in Second Battalion to fill the battalion commander's position-while new officers had arrived to fill the junior officer slots-while a few stood out as competent, others were not. The Colonel had been appalled when he found out that two new platoon commanders had been transferred into the Army from the RSVN-the Strategic Rocket Forces, and had originally been commanding guard units around missile sites. He had asked his fellow regimental commanders at a conference at Division HQ in Meridian, and found out that his wasn't the only regiment, for not only had junior officers been assigned, but whole platoons had been culled from reservists who had served in the RSVN guard force, and sent over. To the Colonel, that was a whole raft of “Sad Duty to Inform You” telegrams just waiting to be sent, and his fellow regimental commanders-to say nothing of the Divisional Commander agreed with him-in private, of course.

Now, in Morgan, things were calm. No air strikes, he had been glad to see, though his outposts near the Brazos River reported American aircraft using the river as ingress or egress routes into the Soviet rear, but there wasn't much anyone could do about it. His relations with the local garrison-made up of Rear-Area Protection troops from Minsk, were good for now, though they were not that enthused about any kind of activities that would stir up the local population. The Regimental Political Officer had told the Colonel about the local PSD man, and for once, the Colonel and the Zampolit were in agreement. For the PSD man was a swine of the worst sort, and though the underground was laying low, the Major who commanded the garrison had told him, they were just biding their time. And if someone did kill the PSD man-for there were the occasional roadside bombs or snipers-or if someone casually stuck a knife into his ribs-no one would complain, and the chances of any kind of reprisal measures being taken were remote, at best.

The Colonel left his headquarters, which prewar had been a small office building-a lawyer had used his office before, his Chief of Staff had told him-and decided to go inspect his battalions. First Battalion was laagered to the northwest, with Second to the Northeast. Third Battalion was to the southeast, and the tank battalion to the southwest. His artillery battalion, engineers, and other elements were in the town proper, though each battalion had a battery from the air defenders. He had plans for a regimental-sized training exercise to shake the men down, and was looking forward to that. The Colonel had just reached his UAZ-469 jeep when shouting came from several nearby buildings, and AA guns that had been put on rooftops began to turn and open fire. Air attack! The Colonel got down next to his jeep along with his aide, and got ready to ride out the attack.


“Lead's in hot! Dealer's choice as to targets,” Guru called as he took 512 down on the bomb run. He saw the flak starting to come up, and that looked like guns on rooftops, while some ZU-23s were firing from a field where some command tracks were parked. Ignoring the tracers, he spotted the tank battalion's laager southwest of the town, and lined up some tanks in his pipper. Just then, he saw a GUN warning light come on, and a bright square with a “23” appear on the EW display. ZSU-23-4....a Shilka. Then it suddenly went off as a male voice gave a “MAGNUM!” call came over the radio, and a fireball appeared down below. Good shooting, Dave, Guru thought as he concentrated on the bomb run. “Steady....Steady......HACK!” He hit the pickle button, releasing his Rockeye CBUs onto the T-72s below. Guru then pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did. When he approached the Brazos River, with the Route 174 Bridge to his One O'clock, he made the call. “Lead's off safe.”

“What the...” the Lieutenant Colonel muttered. He saw Guru's F-4 make its run, and the bomb release. He knew right then that the town wasn't the target, but his regiment was. The Colonel at first wondered what the target was, then he realized what was under attack. His tank battalion and striking arm. Not the tanks! Then several fireballs signaled the death of tanks, and who knew how many others were damaged? The Colonel gestured to his aide, and yelled at his driver. “Get me to the tank battalion, NOW!”

His aide tapped him on the shoulder. “Comrade Colonel,” the Captain said politely.

“WHAT?”

“More aircraft coming in.”

The Colonel looked to the south, and sure enough, another F-4 was inbound. “TAKE COVER!” He shouted, and all three leapt out of the jeep and flattened themselves on the ground.


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

Guru jiked to avoid a SAM-probably an SA-13, then he jinked again to avoid some tracers. “How many? He wanted to know.

“Several,” Goalie replied, turning her head around to scan for threats.

“I'll take 'em,” said Guru as he picked up the Brazos River.


“Two's in!” Kara called as 520 went down on its bomb run. She saw where the CO had put down his CBUs, and the secondaries that followed, and decided that had been serviced enough. As Kara went in, she picked out some APCs northwest of the town, and selected those. Your turn, Ivan, she thought as she lined up several APCs in their laager. She, too, took notice of the flak, and even a couple of SAMs that were too big for SA-7s, but failed to guide. Ignoring the ground fire, Kara kept a steady hand as she got ready for bomb release. “And...Steady....And.....NOW!” She hit her pickle button, releasing her dozen Rockeyes onto the motor-rifle battalion's position. Kara then pulled up and away, jinking and applying power to clear the target. Once clear, she made the call, “Two's off target.”


“Sookin sin!” Son of a bitch, the Colonel muttered as Kara's F-4 overflew the town, and he watched again as the bombs came off. This time, he knew right away what the target was, and that was First Battalion's positions. As he watched the big Phantom pull up, he heard many small explosions, then saw several fireballs erupt in the fighter's wake. Not again....Then he noticed the AA guns on the rooftops turning back to the south. More Americans? Not now, not today, he thought.


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

“How many?” Kara asked as she jinked left to avoid tracers, and then right to avoid a couple of missiles-both of them SA-7 sized by the size of their smoke trails. Say what you want about Ivan, she thought, but those gunners down there had guts.

“Two-handed multiple,” her GIB replied.

“Good enough,” Kara said as she approached the Brazos, and picked up the CO's bird.


“Three's in!” That was Sweaty's call as she came in on her bomb run. She saw Kara's target area, and spotted another laager northeast of the town. Selecting that as her target area, Sweaty picked out some APCs and what looked like supply trucks in the field. Time to make you go away, she thought as she lined up the trucks and a couple of APCs. Sweaty, too, saw the flak coming up, and ignored it, and the SAMs as well-and these were both SA-7s and larger ones-maybe SA-9 or -13? No matter, Sweaty thought as the trucks and APCs grew larger in her pipper. “And...And...And....HACK!” She hit her pickle button, and sent her dozen Mark-82s down onto the Russians below. Sweaty then pulled up, applying power and jinking to avoid flak, and after clearing the target area, she made the call, “Three off target.”

The Colonel watched as Sweaty's F-4 flew over the town, then released its bombs. “Mother of god.....” the Colonel muttered, not caring if anyone heard that. Again, he knew what the target was, and this time, it was Second Battalion's laager. A few choice curses left his lips as the bombs landed, and the Colonel both heard and felt the explosions. The Colonel turned to his aide, and found another officer there as well-his new Zampolit. To the Colonel, the latter looked properly terrified. Good. Let that hack find out that the latest Party blather didn't fit where they were now. He looked up, and saw the guns on the rooftops swinging back to the south, and that told him another aircraft was coming in. This raid wasn't over just yet....


“GOOD HITS!” Preacher shouted from Sweaty's back seat. “Multiple secondaries!”

“What kind?” Sweaty asked as she jinked to avoid a SAM-probably an SA-7, then again to avoid another, which was bigger-either an SA-9 or -13.

“Rightously big!”

Sweaty grinned beneath her oxygen mask. The ex-Seminary student turned WSO never forgot where he came from, and yet, she wondered what the priests back at the Seminary would say about his new choice of profession. Save that for later, she said to herself. “That'll have to do,” she replied as she headed for the Brazos, picking up the CO's element in the distance.


“Four's in!” Hoser called as he came down for his run. He saw the results of Sweaty's run, and picked out another laager to the southeast of the town. You'll do, Ivan, he thought as both 23-mm and 37-mm flak came up, along with two or three SAMs-MANPADS by the size of them. No matter, Hoser thought as he lined up some APCs and trucks in the middle of the laager. Battalion command group, maybe? Hoser thought. Your time's up, Ivan....He lined them up in his pipper. “And...And...And....NOW!” Hoser hit the pickle button, and his dozen Mark-82s came off the racks. After bomb release, Hoser pulled up, applying power and jinking as he did, and when he cleared the town, he made his call, “Four off target.”

“Nyet!” The Colonel said, more to himself than to anyone around him. He saw Hoser's F-4 make its run, and the bomb release. The big Phantom overflew part of the town, and the Colonel saw the AA guns trying to track the aircraft, but their fire fell behind, as the F-4 was just too fast. He looked to the south, and saw four more aircraft orbiting, then they dropped down and followed the others out. As they did, he heard the townspeople cheering. If it was reversed, we'd do the same, he knew. Standing up, he started to issue orders. Time to see what the Yankees had done to his regiment, and to count the losses. The Colonel looked at his Political Officer, who was still visibly shaken. “Well, Comrade, this was your first air raid, wasn't it?”

“Is it always like this, Comrade Colonel?” The Party man replied.

“Be glad you weren't here two weeks ago,” the Colonel smiled. “We had a ground battle and plenty of air strikes. When you hear the veterans giving advice to newcomers such as you?”

“Yes?”

“Take it,” said the Colonel. He then got into his jeep with his aide and a radioman, and headed off to check on his battalions.

“Four in and out,” Guru said as 512 got to the Brazos. “One-five, One-seven, get your elements down and out of Dodge.”

“Roger, Lead,” Dave Golen called back. “MAGNUM!” He added as he shot his last Maverick.

“On the way,” Paul Jackson replied as the two RAF F-4Js followed.

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

“Right with you, Lead,” Kara replied.

Guru turned his head, and saw 520 right with him in Combat Spread. “Got you,” he called. “Sweaty?”

“On your six, and I've got Hoser,” replied Sweaty.

“Roger that,” Guru said. He was keeping up his visual scanning. Now that the target had been hit, he and the rest of the flight weren't flying for God and Country, but for themselves. Then he heard a call that no one wanted to hear, this time from Dave Golen.

“Lead, Five. BREAK! Bandits above, coming down!”

Without hesitating, Guru pulled up and right, while Kara went hard left and low-down to 400 Feet AGL, and as both broke, the crews spotted two MiG-23s coming down. “Where the hell did they come from?” Guru asked as he called up his Sidewinders.

“AWACS got sloppy,” Goalie said as she kept visual on the bandits.

“Lead, One-seven,” Paul Jackson called. “We're on them.” He called up his own AIM-9s as he rolled in behind the MiGs and applied power.

Guru pulled up, and watched as the MiGs overshot. He caught a brief glimpse of their insignia on the wings and tail, and saw a green circle on the wings, and a green flag on the tail. “Libyans again.”

“Lead, Two, Got visual, and coming around,” Kara said. She, too, armed her Sidewinders, and was hoping for that tenth kill.

“Three and four coming in,” Sweaty added. With fangs out, she said to herself as she armed her own weapons.

However, the two RAF crews made such preparations moot. Jackson rolled in behind the Libyan lead, and was amazed at his opponent's maneuvering-or more precisely, the lack thereof. “Bloody hell! Where'd he learn fighter tactics?”

“He must've stayed home that day,” Dave Gledhill replied. He checked their own six. “We're clear. He's yours.”

“Roger that,” Jackson said as he uncaged a Sidewinder and the loud growl of the seeker filled his headset. It got louder to signal missile lock. “FOX TWO!” Jackson called as he squeezed the trigger, sending an AIM-9L after the MiG-23.

In the MiG the acting CO of the Libyan Air Force's 1047th Fighter Squadron grinned beneath his oxygen mask. He and his wingman had been flying over their comrades on the ground when explosions on the ground to the southwest caught his attention. Not even bothering to contact the A-50 AWACS aircraft, he motioned to his wingman with hand signals. Follow me. Not even using his radar, the Libyan Lieutenant led his wingman-a decent chap who was seconded from the Syrian Air Force, after the Americans who had slaughtered his squadron a few days earlier-or so he hoped. He spotted two F-4s that were leading the way for several others, and ignoring everything he'd been taught, charged after eight F-4s with only two.

He dropped on the lead element, but when he saw the two F-4s break, the Lieutenant knew he'd been made. Looking around, he saw two more F-4s coming in from above, and called his wingman to break. As he turned, he lost visual with the F-4, before there was a loud BANG, then every warning light on his instrument panel lit up. Before he could grab the handle of his ejection seat, there was another explosion....the last thing he felt was the heat.

In their F-4J, Jackson and Gledhill watched as the AIM-9 tracked the MiG-23 and flew up its tailpipe. The missile detonated, and the MiG began to trail fire. Then there was a larger explosion as the MiG blew apart. “SPLASH!” Jackson called.

“Hear that?” Guru said as he picked up the MiG leader just in time to see the fireball in the sky.

“That's what, seven?” Goalie asked as she worked the radar controls, trying to pick up the other MiG.

“Think so,” Guru replied. He had his head on a swivel, looking for the other Flogger. “Two, you with me?”

“Right with you, Lead,” Kara replied. “Tally Flogger, Eleven O'clock, three miles.” She uncaged a Sidewinder, even though a side shot wasn't advised. But if he turned away....

Susan Napier and Razor Wilkinson, though, had other ideas, They saw the MiG leader go in a fireball, and picked up the wingman as he was trying to find a target for himself. “Easy, Lead,” Napier called. “We're on him,” she added as both of them saw Guru and Kara's F-4s coming in. She uncaged a Sidewinder and got lock almost immediately. She squeezed the trigger, and called, “FOX TWO!”

The MiG wingman was frantically looking around for his leader. He had heard nothing over the radio, and the sight of a fireball in the sky at first, gave him hope. Did the Lieutenant score? Then he saw several Phantoms, and knew that his leader hadn't, and that fireball was him. Suddenly, there was a loud BANG, and his instrument panel's warning lights lit up. He reflexively grabbed his ejection handle, and the seat fired, sending him clear of his MiG as it tumbled out of the sky. The parachute deployed, and the seat fell away, and as he hung in his seat, an F-4 flew by. The Syrian Lieutenant saw the grey paint scheme, and to his surprise, the insignia on the side. Not the Americans-but British! “The English? Here?”

Napier and Wilkinson watched as the Sidewinder went off just below the MiG's tail, and the Flogger began to stream fire. The canopy came off, the seat fired, and the pilot was soon hanging in his chute. Resisting the temptation to blow him a kiss, Napier flew right past him, then joined up on her element lead. “Two has a splash!”

“Another one for Napier,” Goalie said.

“Save it for later,” Guru said as he turned back north. “Flight, Lead. Form up and let's get the hell out of here.”

“On you,” Kara said as she came up in Combat Spread.

“Sweaty and Hoser on your six,” Sweaty called.

“Five and Six with you,” Dave Golen added.

“Seven and Eight here,” Paul Jackson said.

“Roger all,” Guru replied as he took 512 down to 400 Feet AGL and past the Brazospoint Bridge. He turned slightly to the right, getting into the Nicaraguan sector, then turning back left, just to the east of the river, and yet, still able to use it as a navigation aid. “How far to Glen Rose Bridge?”

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie called.

“Copy,” Guru said as the flight skimmed the east bank.

“And there's the bridge,” said Goalie as the bridge appeared at their Eleven O'clock. “And the flak.” As usual, the East German flak gunners were alert and shooting.

“Right on time,” Guru deadpanned. He then called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say bandits?”

A controller replied right away. “Rambler, Warlock. Bandits bearing One-eight-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Second group bearing One-four-zero for sixty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock,” Guru called. “Do you have Bogey Dope?”

“Affirmative,” the controller replied. “First bandits are Floggers, second are Fulcrums. Wait one,” the controller paused, then continued. “Rambler, third group of Bandits. Bearing Two-four-zero for seventy. Medium, closing. Bandits are Fulcrums.”

MiG-29s, Guru thought. They're calling in the clans on us this time. “Roger that, Warlock.”

“Fifteen seconds to Lake Granbury Dam,” Goalie reported.

“Screw that!” Guru said. He took 512 down to 350 Feet AGL, and the others followed as he cut across two bends in the river, bypassing the dam, but cutting into the East German sector. Still, they were in range of the flak gunners at the dam, and they swung their weapons to the south and began shooting. However, the strike flight was too fast for the gunners to track, and they outdistanced the Triple-A.

“Twenty seconds to Granbury bridges.”

“Copy,” Guru said. He took a look at his EW display and saw only the Mainstay signal. Here's hoping they can't track us in the weeds, he thought. He then took the flight back across the river into the Nicaraguan sector just as the U.S. 377 bridge appeared, and the AAA from the East Germans came at them.

“East Germans on the ball,” Goalie observed. As the bridge went past, she took a quick look. Empty. “No traffic.”

“Not this time,” Guru said as the old U.S. 377 bridge went by, and the damaged Railroad Bridge as well. Then he took the flight right down the middle of Lake Granbury, leaving the town-and the AAA-behind them. “Warlock, Rambler. Say bandits.”

“Rambler Lead, Warlock,” the AWACS controller replied. “Bandits bearing One-eight-five for forty. Medium, going away. Second bandits bearing One-two-five for fifty. Medium, turning...now going away. Third group bearing Two-two-zero for sixty. Medium, going away.”

“They're not keen on an Eagle welcoming committee,” Goalie quipped.

“Would you?” Guru said. “Roger that, Warlock.”

“Not me,” replied Goalie. “Thirty seconds to the fence.” That was the I-20.

Guru checked his map. If they followed the river, the I-20 bridges over the Brazos would be where they crossed the fence, and those bridges had an Army I-HAWK SAM battery in attendance. And those pukes operated on the “Shoot them down and sort them out later” mentality, or so it seemed. “Got it,” he said. A couple of miles short of the freeway, he turned west, and the others followed, then they picked up the interstate west of the bridges. “And there's the fence.”

“We're here,” Goalie said. And no trigger-happy Army pukes on the ground shooting at them.

“Flight, Lead. Music off and IFF on, out,” Guru called, then he climbed to altitude.

Once the flight had climbed away, they headed to the tanker track, and the usual post-strike refueling. This time, they all hooked up from KC-135s or KC-10s. Once that was done, Rambler Flight headed back to Sheppard.

Upon arrival, Rambler Flight was third in the pattern, behind the eastbound C-141 and a flight of Marine F-4s. When it was their turn in the pattern, the two RAF birds each did a victory roll, much to the delight of those watching on the ground, then everyone came in and landed.

As they taxied in, popped their canopies, and raised them, the crews noticed the news crew filming-as if their very jobs depended on it. They zeroed in on the two RAF F-4s, whose crews were each holding up a finger to signal a MiG kill.

“Well, now,” Jana Wendt said to the 335th's PAO, Lieutenant Patti Brown, who had gotten back from a strike herself about fifteen minutes earlier. “Guess who we'll be trying to interview?”

The PAO nodded, but said, “Remember, they'll be a little busy after they shut down, and have to make the intelligence people happy.”

“I know, but we'll get them one way or another.”

The flight taxied into the 335th's dispersal area, then the individual crews taxied to their revetments. Guru found 512's revetment, and followed his Crew Chief's signals to taxi in. Once in, he got the “Stop” signal, then the ground crew came out with the wheel chocks. Only then did Guru get the “Shut down” signal. Then it was time for the post-flight check.

“Three and done,” Guru said as he and Goalie went through the checklist.

“One more?” Goalie asked. She knew already, but still..... “As long as it's not CAS.”

“You are preaching to the choir,” Guru said. When done, both pilot and GIB got up and climbed down from the aircraft and took off their helmets, as the Crew Chief came with a bottle of water for both of them. “Thanks, Sarge.”

“How'd it go out there, sir?” Sergeant Crowley asked.

“Made some armor go away,” Goalie quipped.

“And the RAF got a couple of MiGs,” added Guru.

Hearing that, Crowley was beaming. “Shit hot! Uh, sir.”

Guru laughed. “Sarge, you can use that kind of language on the ramp anytime, for all I care.” He took a drink of water, then went on. “Besides, after a strike? It's damned appropriate.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Sure is,” Goalie added.

Guru nodded, then looked at the aircraft, then back at his Crew Chief. “All right, Sarge. Let's get her ready for the next one. We've got time for one more strike.”

Crowley nodded himself. “You got it, Major! All right, you guys, you heard the Boss! Let's get her ready for the next one!” And the ground crew went to work.

Guru and Goalie then headed for the revetment's entrance, and as usual, Kara and Brainiac were already there. “Well?” Guru asked his wingmate. “How'd you guys do?”

“Made some APCs go away,” Kara said. “You got some armor.” It wasn't a question.

“How'd you guess?”

“You rolled in on the tank battalion laager,” Kara grinned. “Recognized that from the photos.”

Goalie grinned. “And some of 'em went up.”

“They did,” Guru said as Sweaty and Hoser came with Preacher and KT. “What about you guys?”

“Tore up some APCs, each,” Sweaty replied. “Now, the RAF's hogging the air-to-air stuff.”

“It's what they're here for,” Guru reminded them. Then Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs-Terry McAuliffe and Jang, arrived. “Thanks for killing the air-defense threat.”

“Not all of them,” Dave nodded. “But we got enough.”

“And killed a few tanks or APCs when the air-defense people shut down,” Flossy added.

Guru nodded as the two RAF crews came over. “Dave,” he said to Dave Gledhill. “Nice job with the Floggers. That's what, seven for you?”

“Thanks,” Gledhill replied. “Eight for me, but six for Paul and Susan. By the way, did anyone notice who those chaps were?”

“Green circle on the fuselage and wings, with a green flag on the tail,” Kara said. “Those were Qaddafi's boys.”

“And they flew like they expected to get splashed,” Susan Napier added. “Who taught those guys?”

“Good question,” a voice said. Sin Licon, the Squadron Intelligence Officer came over. “Libyans again?”

“They were, and they didn't check their six,” Dave Golen commented. “That's poor training.”

“Or target fixation,” Flossy said. “They were focused on the Boss and Kara, and didn't check to see if anybody else was around.”

Kara nodded. “Either way,” she said as she finished a bottle of water. “They paid for it. The guy who bailed out? That's one debrief I'd like to hear.”

“Ditto,” Guru said. “We debriefing out here, Sin?”

“No, sir,” the intel replied. “But we need to go in and get that done, then Doc asked me to remind you all to see if you can get a workout in before the last mission.”

The CO looked at him. “Doc checking off names again?”

“I plead the Fifth on that, Boss.”

Guru cracked a grin at that. “Okay, Sin. Let's get the debrief done.” Then he turned to the crews. “Let's make the intel happy, check your desks and see if the armchair warriors sent you anything, and try and get a workout in before the next one.”

“One more run?” Kara asked.

“One more,” Guru nodded. “Let's go and debrief, then get the rest out of the way."
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  #531  
Old 03-15-2020, 12:19 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Last mission of the day, with a stand-down for weather coming...



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX; 1510 Hours Central War Time:

Major Matt Wiser sat at his desk, going over some papers. Even though it was wartime, and the bureaucracy had shrunk some, there were still enough of the armchair warriors left to make his life-and that of every other squadron and wing commander, miserable from time to time. Wonder if Frank knows this guy, the CO wondered as he read some memo about “proper attire on the flight line.” Someone whose ass spent way too much time warming a chair and not much else was worried about how ground crews were dressed? Shaking his head at the whole thing, the CO went through the rest of the papers, glad that he had a good exec to filter out the wheat from the chaff-much as he did for the late Colonel Rivers, not that long ago. Supply requisitions, signing off on enlisted promotion recommendations, all of that-that was soon taken care of, and when he was finished, he got up and looked out his office window.

What he saw pleased him, as AF and Marine F-4s, Marine F/A-18s, and Navy A-7s, along with the occasional helo or C-130, were taking off and landing. Good. Shove it to the bastards, the CO thought. In an hour or so, he and his flight would be doing their share of shoving, and the sooner they got to the Rio Grande, the better. The country had come a long way since PRAIRIE FIRE back in May and all through the summer, but there was still a long way to go.

The CO was still looking outside when there was a knock on his office door. “Yeah? Show yourself and come on in!”

His Exec came in. “Boss, got a couple things for you, then I've got a mission,” Capt. Mark Ellis said.

“Get a workout in?” Guru wanted to know. With the sawbones checking off names, it wasn't a good idea to get the Flight Surgeon angry, and he did outrank everyone when it came to anything medical.

“Just finished,” Ellis replied. “These are for you, and oh, by the way, the eastbound C-141 came in.”

“I saw earlier,” the CO nodded. “What have you got?”

“Updated weather. Storm's coming in, right on time, and we can expect IFR at tactical altitudes beginning at midnight and lasting until at least 1400,” the XO said.

Guru scanned the weather report. “Cloud ceiling 15,000 to 18,000,” he noticed. “Good enough.”

Ellis stared at his CO. “Still taking that reporter on a 'check ride'?” He was referring to Guru's planned hop with Jana Wendt, the reporter attached to the squadron from both CBS and 9 News Australia.

“Kara's taking her,” the CO grinned. “I've got the cameraman. Go up, do some turning and burning, maybe head to the old Scud box and do some ACT.”

“Like with Yeager and the F-20s?” Ellis asked, and the CO could see the grin from ear to ear on the XO's face.

“Something like that, and get the reporter sick,” Guru replied, thinking of how good that would look when the reporter staggered out of 520's back seat, ready to lose the contents of her stomach. “Won't scare her out of here-she's been around way too long for that-but she will appreciate what we do day in and day out.”

“Getting our perspective.”

“Just what I have in mind,” Guru said. “What else?”

Ellis handed the CO some papers. “Airman First Class Anthony Rodriguez wants to go to Airman to Pilot.” The XO saw the questioning look on the CO's face, and added, “He's one of mine, not Frank's.”

Guru scanned the application. “Two years of community college, transfer to UNLV, two semesters there before the balloon went up,” he saw. “Shooting for navigator?” The CO looked from the papers at his XO.

“He's got 20/40 vision in both eyes,” replied the XO.

“Okay,” Guru signed “Approved,” on the last page. “He does know that if he gets his commission and earns his nav wings, there's an eight-year commitment to the Air Force?”

“He does.”

“All right,” Guru said as he handed the application back to the XO. “See it goes out. Anything else?”

“Chief Ross has been trying to get anything on Airman Kellogg's family,” Ellis reported. “Still nothing on the parents or the brother, but there may be a lead on the sister.”

“Oh?”

Ellis nodded. “Nothing definite, but a woman with the same name as the sister joined the Air Force out of Little Rock a week after the balloon went up, and Kellogg did say his dad told her to get to Little Rock or Memphis, as I recall.”

“So do I,” said Guru. “Okay, I'll talk to Kellogg sometime tomorrow and give him an update, such as it is. Have Chief Ross talk to him, see how he's doing, and one more thing: Ross should tell Kellogg not just to be ready for some bad news, but that Ross won't make promises he can't keep.”

“We may never find out about any other family, other than his brother-and the Navy would let him know if he's KIA or MIA,” the XO grimaced.

The CO nodded grimly. “That is a very real possibility,” he noted. Okay, that's it?”

“Yep, and in ten, I have a brief, then it's wheels-up.”

Guru and the XO shook hands. “Good luck, and be careful, Mark,” the CO said. “Don't want to break in Don as XO, and we all don't want Kara as Ops-yet, anyway.”

“Until we change her attitude towards paperwork,” Ellis said. “And you be careful, Boss. Sure don't want to be CO.”

“Will do,” Guru said. “Now get outta here. You've got a mission to brief and fly.”

“You got it, Boss.” The XO grinned, then headed to brief his flight.

After he left, Guru looked at his watch, and nodded. Time to get a run in at least. He left the office and told his secretary, “Trish? I'm getting a workout in. No calls unless it's either Colonel Brady or somebody with stars on their shoulders.”

Staff Sergeant Trisha Lord smiled. “Will do, Major.”

The CO went to his tent to change, then went over to the Fitness Center, which was one of the largest tents on base. At the entrance he found Doc Waters there, as expected. “Doc. Checking off names, I see.”

“Have to stay busy,” the sawbones replied cheerfully. “I'm glad I'm not that busy, and you do know what I mean by that, but it does get boring, checking you guys out, or the ones with the flu, and tossing in the occasional sports injury.”

“You might have us to thank for that,” Guru said. “Been putting the heat on the bad guys so they don't hit us here all that often.”

“For now,” Doc replied.

“Yeah,” said Guru. And he knew what he meant. Sooner or later, Ivan would strike Sheppard again. An air strike, missile attack, even a Spetsnatz raid, all were possibilities. He went into the tent and found a treadmill, and noticed Goalie and Kara already going at it. Guru also saw the occasional glance shot at both of them, for both were in sports bras and shorts. Somebody's going to get skinned at the pool table, he thought as he got up on his own treadmill and started a four-mile run.

He was almost through when the Ops Officer found him. “Boss,” Don Van Loan said.

“Don, let me guess: you've found me a mission,” replied Guru. It wasn't a question.

“You got it,” Van Loan said, shooting a glance at both Goalie and Kara, who had been joined by Sweaty. “Birds are prepped and the mission folder's ready.”

“Got you,” the CO said. He nodded at the three others, and they got down from their treadmills. “Get changed-and don't bother to shower, because we've got a mission,” he told them.

“Lovely,” Kara said. “Round everybody up?”

“Do that, once you've changed,” Guru said. He turned to the Ops Officer. “Dave and Flossy coming?”

“They are, Van Loan replied. “And the Brits.”

“All right.” The CO looked at Kara and Goalie. “Get everybody to the Briefing Room in fifteen.”

The two looked at each other. “On our way,” Kara replied, then they, along with Sweaty, went to change.


Guru then headed to his own tent to change, then went to the Ops Office. As expected, Van Loan was waiting with the mission folder. “Don,” Guru said. “Let's have it.”

“Here you are,” the Ops Officer said, handing the CO the folder. “You've got a doozy.”

Guru opened the folder and scanned the mission brief. He then looked at the Ops Officer. “Who came up with this? Two targets?” He then shot a stare that would have wilted any plant-or anyone, for that matter.

“Don't look at me, Boss-man,” Van Loan replied, holding up his hands. “This came from the ATO.”

Guru nodded, then checked the brief again. “Good thing we're getting Weasels, because this place will crawl.”

“That it will, Boss,” said Van Loan. He winced, then added, “You've been there a couple of times before.”

“I have,” the CO admitted. “Okay, Don. Since I don't have a choice, I'll take it. You be careful out there your own self.”

The Ops Officer nodded. “Will do, and take your own advice.”

“Always,” Guru said. He then headed to his flight's briefing room, and found Buddy, the squadron's mascot, waiting outside the door. The CO opened the door, and the dog went in ahead of him, and Guru found the rest of the flight already there and waiting. “All right, people, somebody's saved the best-or hairiest-for last, because that's what we've got.”

“Where to?” Sweaty asked.

Guru had a copy of a TPC chart, and a JOG chart. “Right here: Coleman, and we've been here before,” he said. “Second strike the day our friends from the Tigers started flying.”

“Figures,” Kara spat. “What's the target?”

“Targets, mind,” the CO said. He looked at everyone. “First, and that's for elements one and two, the supply dump west of town, at the junction of F.M. 402 and F.M. 422.” He passed some RF-4C imagery around. “So Sweaty? You follow me in on this one.”

“Swell,” she replied. “This place crawls. There's quite a bit of flak here.”

“And missiles-this is the HQ for the Soviet 32nd Army,” Guru said. “As for ordnance? First two elements get a dozen Mark-82s, and half of those have Daisy Cutter fuze extenders.”

“No CBUs?” Hoser asked. HQ, 32nd Army? No wonder the Weasels are coming, he thought.

Guru shook his head. “Not this close to the town,” he replied. “Dave G?” Guru nodded at their IDF “Observer” and his element. “You and Flossy take the airport. It's being used as a FOL for Su-25s and helos, so you might find a mixed bag on the ramp.”

“Who's got what?” Flossy asked.

Guru checked the brief. “You both have dumb bombs. Mark-82s and M-117Rs. And everybody's got the usual air-to-air load.” That meant four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, two 370-gallon wing tanks, an ALQ-119 or ALQ-101 ECM pod, and full 20-mm gun.

“My people?” Dave Gledhill spoke up. “Four AIM-9Ls, four Sky Flash, two wing tanks, and a SUU-23 pod.”

“You might need them,” Guru replied. “Brownwood Regional's about a minute and a half to the east, and that means MiG-21s and -23s. San Angelo's about three and a half minutes to the southwest, and that means MiG-23s and -29s from San Angelo Municipal and Goodfellow AFB.”

“And we got a couple Fulcrums the last time we came this way,” Susan Napier said.

“Be careful of what you ask for,” Guru reminded her. “Because you might just get it. Now, until bomb release, no hassling with MiGs-that's what the RAF is for. Once we're clear of the target? Different story.”

“Got it,” said Kara, though several could see her have a grin on her face. A chance to become a double ace, and that be a MiG-29? She was looking forward to that.

Preacher asked, “What's the defenses?”

“Good question,” Guru replied. “It's a mix. This is an Army-level formation, and they do have SA-4s. Intel says, though, that they're beginning to replace the SA-4s with SA-11s, which is why we're getting a pair of Weasels at the tankers.”

“Nice to have, that,” Dave Gledhill said.

“They are,” said Guru. “Coors One-one and One-two will go in with us. Now, besides the SA-4 and possible SA-11, there's guys with MANPADS, plus flak. That's the 23-mm and 37-mm, which is optically guided, and radar-guided 57-mm. Those are around the airport, so Dave G and Flossy? Watch yourselves. One of the Weasels can put a HARM or Standard-ARM onto those chumps for you if need be.”

“Oh, they will be,” Jang quipped.

“Chances are? Yes,” said Guru. “Then again, who knows what unit might be passing through, and what they've got? SA-9 or -13, and for guns? ZSU-23s or possibly ZSU-30s.”

Kara scowled. “And if we see those basketball-sized tracers, we abort.” It wasn't a question.

“Right. There's two or three opportunity targets to the northeast, and we'll go for one of those if necessary.”

Hoser looked at the TPC chart. “What's the way in, Boss?”

Guru nodded. “Just coming to that. “We meet up with the Weasels at the usual Tanker Track, then get down low, cross the I-20 and follow the Leon River. Stay with the river to Proctor Lake, but don't cross it, but we'll skirt it instead to avoid flak at the dam. Then we go south to State Route 36, then turn to a heading of Two-three-five, and maintain that heading, passing State Route 16, then U.S. 84/183, all the way to the Colorado River. Turn west and follow the river. Keep clear of the bridge for U.S. 377 at Winchell.”

“Let me guess: Flossy said. “There's flak.”

“There is,” Guru said. “Only 37-mm, but still... Anyway, keep going west until U.S. 283. Turn north, and once we hit U.S. 67/84, at the town of Santa Anna, that's the IP. We pop up, turn northwest, and ID the targets. Make your runs, then get your asses down and away to the north. Avoid Lake Coleman and the dam there, because there is flak at said dam. Your last jink post-strike has to be to the northeast. Stay low until reaching the I-20, then we climb up to meet the tankers, then we come on home.” He turned to Dave Gledhill. “You guys? When we pop up? Do your TARCAP, and nasty things to any party crashers.”

“Will do,” said Gledhill.

“If you're hit, stay with the bird as long as you can, but be advised that both Abilene Municipal and Dyess AFB are available as divert fields, but be advised there's Patriots there, not just I-HAWK. If you have to divert, make sure you're squawking on IFF. Just like the I-HAWK pukes at the I-20 bridges over the Brazos, these clowns shoot first and sort them out on the ground.”

Susan Napier asked, “What are the bailout areas?” Always a good thing to know, even if you didn't need to use it. Then, anyway.

“Simple,” Guru replied. “Anyplace rural and away from roads. Hole up somewhere, and Jolly Green will come for you-especially at night. There's not much in terms of Resistance people here, but the ranchers will help-or if they can't for whatever reason? They will find someone who will.”

“Good to know.”

“It is,” said the CO. “Now, this may be the last one for today, but treat it like the first. Complacency kills, and I can't stress that enough. You hear me?”

“We get you, Major,” Goalie said. When anyone addressed the CO by his rank, they were taking him very seriously.

“That's good. Now, anything else?”

KT pointed at the dog. “Buddy's asleep.”

“Good omen,” the CO grinned as an Ops NCO came to collect the briefing materials. “Nobody wake him. And if that's it, let's gear up. Meet at 512.”

The crews went to their locker rooms, and when Guru came out of the Men's, all geared up and ready, Goalie was waiting, as usual. “All set?”

“Last one, then tomorrow's the stand-down,” she grinned. “You betcha.”

“Then let's go.” Guru said. They went outside, and found Frank and his people coming in. “Frank,” the CO said. “How'd it go?”

“Routine,” Carson said. “Nothing hairy, if that's what you're wondering.”

“Good,” Guru nodded, glancing at Frank's GIB and wing crew, who nodded. “Don't take any chances, ever. Because I don't want to do any letter-writing. Comprende?”

“Yes, sir,” Carson replied, but everyone could hear the contempt in his voice.

“Hope so,” said Guru, and they could hear the firmness in his voice.

“Understood,” the despised Major said, then he went into the office.

Lieutenant Brian Slater, Frank's GIB, went up to the CO. “Major, I can tell there's a ton of pressure building up. Sooner or later...” His voice trailed off, and Guru knew what he meant.

“Brian, remind him of two things: First, he's responsible for you as his GIB. Second? If he fucks up in the air, you die six feet behind him. If you think you have to confront him directly? Remember that you have my permission to do just that,” Guru said. “And if he tries to write you up? It gets fed to the office shredder.”

“Thanks, Major,” Slater replied with relief. “I may do just that.”

Guru nodded. “Sean and Melissa?” He turned to Captain Sean Hennings and Lieutenant Melissa Brewster, who were Carson's wingmates. “Same for you two. Any fuckup might get you two killed or worse-captured. What I said to Brian applies to you two also.”

Both nodded. “Might just do it, Major,” Hennings said, and Brewster nodded.

“All right: get your debrief out of the way, and clear your desks before hitting the Club.”

The trio nodded, then headed on in.

“Sooner or later,” Goalie said. “He's going to pop. You and I both know it.”

“Unfortunately,” Guru agreed. “Just as long as he doesn't get any friendlies killed.”

“To be wished for.”

“Yeah.”

“But I doubt it,” Goalie said. “Hate to say it, but....” And the CO knew full well what she meant.

Guru and Goalie then walked to 512's revetment, and found the rest of the flight waiting. It was time for him to give his final instructions. “All right, people, gather 'round.”

“Usual on the radio?” Kara asked. That meant call signs between them, and mission code to the AWACS and any other interested parties.

“It is,” Guru replied. “Now, I can't stress this enough, so I'll repeat: DO NOT get complacent. This may be the last one of the day, but treat it like it's the first. I don't want to spend any part of my stand-down tomorrow doing any letter-writing. Understood?”

“Loud and clear, Major,” said Sweaty, and the others nodded.

“Okay, we're still Rambler Flight. Meet up at ten grand overhead as usual. Anything else?” Heads shook now. “All right!” The CO clapped his hands for emphasis. “Time to fly. Let's hit it.”

The crews headed to their aircraft, and both Guru and Goalie went into the revetment, where the Crew Chief was waiting. “Major, Lieutenant?” Sergeant Crowley said as he snapped a salute. “Five-twelve's ready to rock and kick some more Commie ass.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said as he and Goalie returned the salute. They did the usual pre-flight walk-around, then climbed the crew ladder and mounted the aircraft. After strapping into their seats, putting on their helmets and plugging in, they went through the pre-flight checklist.

“Still got this bad feeling about Frank,” Goalie said as she went through the checklist. “Can't shake it.”

“You are preaching to the choir,” Guru replied. “Just pray that if anyone gets killed, he's the only one-as much as I hate to say it.”

“Amen,” Goalie replied. “Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, check yours, and I'll second the 'amen,'” said Guru. “Arnie?”

“Arnie's up and running,” Goalie said, referring to the ARN-101 DMAS system. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start,” she added, stowing her checklist.

“That we are,” Guru replied. He gave a thumbs-up to his CC, and Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal. First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running, and during the warm-up, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Lead with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A controller got back to him right away. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you will be number two in line.”

“Roger, Tower,” Guru called back. “Rambler Lead is rolling.” He gave another thumbs-up to Crowley, who waved to the ground crew, who pulled the wheel chocks away. Then Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal, and Guru began taxiing out.

Once 512 cleared the revetment, Crowley gave another thumbs-up, then he snapped a perfect salute. Guru and Goalie returned it, then Guru taxied towards the taxiway, and the rest of the flight fell in behind him. When they got to the holding area, a four-ship of Marine Hornets was ahead of them, while a Marine KC-130 came in to land on the same runway. As the Marines taxied onto the runway, Rambler Flight taxied into the holding area. There, the armorers removed the weapon safeties, making them “live.” When they were finished, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Rambler Lead, Tower,” the controller replied. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-six-six for five.”

“Roger, Tower,” Guru acknowledged. He then taxied onto the runway, and Kara in 520 followed, pulling in right with him in the Five O'clock position. Guru turned to look, as did Goalie, and both Kara and Brainiac gave the thumbs-up, signaling ready. Guru and Goalie returned it, then did a final cockpit check. All squared away. “Ready?” Guru asked his GIB.

“All set,” Goalie replied.

“Then let's go,” Guru 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.

“Copy,” Goalie replied, doing the same.

Guru then turned to see Kara and Brainiac, and they were ready as well. “It's time.” He firewalled the engines, then released the brakes, as 512 rumbled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right alongside. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, followed by Dave Golen and Flossy, with the RAF element bringing up the rear. Rambler Flight met up at FL 100, then headed for their tankers.
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  #532  
Old 03-15-2020, 12:20 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Strike, and some more air-to-air:


Over Central Texas, 1610 Hours Central War Time:


Rambler Flight was headed south into enemy territory. They had met up with their tankers and topped up, with the 335th birds hooking up to KC-135s, and the RAF plugging into a KC-10. The flight then had met up with the two F-4Gs tasked to them, before getting down low and penetrating into hostile airspace, with the sun getting low in the west. If anyone was out there, looking for them, the old adage “Beware the Hun in the Sun” from both WW I and II, still applied.

Major Matt Wiser had his eyes on a swivel, as usual. A quick check of his instruments, then the EW display, then outside. A habit that had kept him and his GIB alive, and one that had been drummed into his head at the RTU at Homestead-how many years had it been? No matter, it would have been that many lifetimes, he knew. A quick glance again at the EW display showed it clear-for now. “EW clear,” he said. “How long until Proctor Lake?”

His GIB was on the ball, as usual. “Twenty-four miles,” Goalie replied. “One and a half minutes.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. They were following the Leon River, which wasn't much of a river, but it led right to the lake. “And time to Highway 16?”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie advised. She took a look around visually, then checked her own EW display. Something had just popped up. “Got something on the EW display,” she said as the SEARCH warning light came on.

“Got it,” Guru scowled beneath his oxygen mask. The strobe was to the southeast, and no way to know how far. But only one radar in this part of Texas could pick them up this low. “Mainstay again.”

Goalie scowled herself, then shook her head. “Lovely. Somebody's got to do something about those guys.”

“Maybe somebody's cooking something up,” Guru replied. “Maybe a sub's going to sneak into the Gulf and pop some Tomahawks into wherever they're parked.”

Goalie liked the sound of that. “Here's hoping,” she said. “Highway should be coming up.”

“Got it,” said Guru as State Route 16 appeared. Though a MSR and the boundary for the Soviet 32nd Army and the East Germans, it was empty of traffic at the moment. “And that's that,” he said as they overflew the road. He then turned right to follow the river to the lake. “Time to the lake?”

“Twenty-five seconds.”

“Roger that,” Guru then called the AWACS, orbiting somewhere along the Texas-Oklahoma border area. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

A controller replied immediately. “Rambler Lead, Warlock. First threat bearing One-four-zero for fifty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-five for sixty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-one-zero for sixty. Medium, going away. Fourth Threat bearing One-eight-zero for eighty-five. Medium, going away.”

“Roger, Warlock. Do you have bogey dope?”

“Affirmative,” the controller said. “First and second threats are Floggers. Third are Fulcrums, and the fourth are Flankers.”

Hearing that, Guru's head perked up, as did Goalie's-and so he hoped, everybody else's in the flight. Flankers? When was the last time they heard that? “Roger that, Warlock.”

“Flankers?” Goalie asked. “Been a while since we've heard that call.”

“It has,” Guru replied. “Lake's coming up.” The north shore of Proctor Lake appeared, and he turned slightly left, to skirt the lake along the east shore, and thus avoid overflying the dam-with its attendant flak batteries. As the flight cleared the lake, there was still some 23-mm flak as trigger-happy gunners opened up, though the strike flight was too fast to track. Then came U.S. 67-377, and the small town of Proctor. A few vehicles were visible in the town, but no traffic on the highway as Rambler Flight headed south.

In the town, the local garrison-made up of Reservists from a Rear-Area Protection Division out of Minsk, was simply minding its own business. Namely, keep the road open, provide a presence to deter any “bandit' (Resistance) activity, and otherwise maintain order. The Soviet company commander knew that his men were in no shape for any kind of a serious fight, with a company's worth of BTR-152s (and his battalion was the only one in the regiment so equipped-the rest making use of captured trucks), a platoon of three T-54s whose data plates showed they had rolled out of the Chelabinysk Tank Works in 1950, a mortar battery, a few DshK machine guns and ZPU-2 14.5-mm guns for air defense, and not much else. Given the quality of the men-all of whom were either over thirty-five or barely eighteen, the Captain wondered what would happen first-either they would take to their heels at the first sight of American armor, or simply surrender. At least the Political Officer understands-the Captain thought, for the Zampolit was also a Reservist, pulled from a job in the Minsk Party and sent here. It took all of an hour in this miserable place called Texas to get him homesick, just like the rest of the men.

As long as those bandits who call themselves the Resistance stay away, the Captain thought. He got up from his desk-his headquarters was in what, prewar, had been an auto-parts store and had belonged to the manager. He went outside, and found some locals lining up outside the local market. Now, his previous thought came to mind, as he knew the Resistance was around, just lying low. Then the rumble of jets came, as a dozen or so American F-4s thundered overhead, and the locals were cheering. Was it like this for the Fascisti when our Il-2s or Pe-2s came over, he wondered. At least they didn't bomb us, he thought. Where they were going and what they intended to attack wasn't his problem.


“How far to Highway 36?” Guru asked as Proctor disappeared behind them.

“Eight miles,” Goalie answered. “Thirty seconds.”

“Copy that,” Guru replied. He maintained his visual scanning, and checked his EW display. The Mainstay's signal was still there, and the strobe had gotten brighter, which meant the signal strength was increasing. Guru then took 512 down to 450 Feet AGL from 500, and the rest of the flight followed. Another glance showed just the Mainstay's signal, and no other radars. “Still there,” Guru spat.

“The Mainstay?”

“Yep.”

“Swell,” Goalie said. “Highway 36 coming up.”

“Got it,” said Guru as the highway appeared. No traffic, he saw. Too bad, because if they were on an armed recon, the flight would be prowling roads like this one, looking for targets. He turned onto the new heading of Two-three-five, heading generally to the southeast. “How far to the Colorado?” Their next turn point was the Colorado River.

“Two minutes,” Goalie replied. “Thirty-two miles.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as the flight continued on course, the rolling hills of this part of Texas actually helping out, as this low, the Mainstay radar, along with most fighter radars, had trouble picking them out of the ground clutter.

“Fifteen seconds to Route 16.”

“Got it.” Guru then saw the highway appear, and as it went by below, there was no traffic, other than what looked like a jeep. “Somebody got lucky.”

“Not their day,” Goalie replied, seeing the jeep-like vehicle. “One minute forty-five to the river.”

“Roger that. How far to 84-183?” Guru was referring to U.S. 84/183.

“Forty seconds.”

The strike flight kept heading southwest, and as they reached F.M. 218, halfway to U.S. 84/183, they overflew a column of people walking down the road. Unknown to the aircrews, the column was of prisoners being marched from a work assignment back to a labor camp. To Brenda Wallace, who had been arrested just after the invasion simply for being an assistant county librarian, the sight of the aircraft overhead was a good omen. The guards-all of them from the MVD, ordered everyone down, and as they took cover, she looked up, and saw the aircraft overhead. Brenda glanced at her friend, Karla Hayden, a former Army MP who had been discharged a few weeks prior to the invasion, and had been arrested due to that and her husband being a deputy sheriff, and both nodded. They grabbed their shovels-which they had dropped, and as two guards got up, smashed the shovels into the guards' skulls. Both picked up the guards' AKM rifles and magazines, and sprinted off the road into some nearby brush. They heard the sound of gunfire, and not knowing that others had the same idea they had, kept running. Unknown to the two, several others had managed to escape, either with weapons or without. “Now where do we go?” Brenda asked after they'd gone a half-mile or so.

“My ranch-or what's left of it-it's about two days' hike north of here,” Karla said. “First we find a place to hole up.”

“And then what?”

“I know a few people who-if they're not dead, will take us in,” said Karla. “Then we heal up some, and find a way to make Ivan pay.”

For the first time in two years, Brenda grinned. “Sounds like a plan,” she said, then gunfire and shouting off in the distance got their attention.

“We'd better go,” Karla said, shouldering her AKM. “Let's get the hell out of here.” Both escapees then got further away from their pursurers.


“Talk to me,” Guru said. “How's our time?”

“Thirty seconds to 84-183, one minute to the river,” Goalie called.

“Roger that,” he replied. Then Guru called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler, Warlock,” the controller replied. “First threat bearing One-one-zero for forty-five. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-four-five for sixty. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing One-eight-five for seventy. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-seven-five for eighty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock,” Guru said. “Do you have bogey dope?”

“Affirmative,” said the controller. “First and second threats are Floggers. Third threats are Flankers, and fourth are Fulcrums.”

“Rambler Lead copies.” Flankers still....maybe that was where the Mainstay's orbiting? “Still some Flankers.”

“I heard,” Goalie said. Highway 84-183 coming up.”

“Got it,” Guru said as the two-lane highway appeared. Once more, there was no traffic moving. “Be glad we're not on an armed recon.”

In the back seat, Goalie nodded, mainly to herself. “You're not the only one,” she said. “Thirty seconds to the river.”

“Copy,” Guru said. He took a look at the EW display, and saw just the strobe of the Mainstay's radar. As long as that was the only one...

Goalie checked the DMAS and the INS, as well as her map. “Fifteen seconds to the river.”

Guru nodded himself. “On it.” A few seconds later, he called, “River in sight.” Then he turned right onto a course of Two-seven-zero, and the others followed suit. “Steady on, and how far?”

“Twenty-eight miles,” Goalie called. “One minute forty-five.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. They quickly came to where the F.M. 45 bridge had stood, but it had been dropped sometime in the past and wasn't back up. “How long until Highway 377?”

“Ten miles,” Goalie said. “Forty seconds.”

“Copy.”

It wasn't long until Rambler Flight got to the U.S. 377 bridge. Guru turned slightly right, avoiding the two 37-mm batteries guarding the bridge, and ovrflying what had been the town of Winchell, but was more a collection of ruins than anything else. Once clear, he got back onto a westerly course. “Highway 183 next up.”

“Copy that,” replied Goalie. “Forty seconds to turn.” The highway bridge over the Colorado was their next turn point.

The rolling hills and ranchland went by, as Rambler Flight headed west for the turn point. “Tally on the bridge,” Guru called. “And the flak.” The Soviet-manned 23-mm and 37-mm batteries defending the bridge opened up. “Turning now,” he said, putting 512 into a medium right turn, just enough to avoid the flak, but enough to pick up U.S. 183, which was another MSR in this part of Texas. “And on 183,” Guru said. “How long to Santa Anna?” That was the IP.

“Twenty miles,” said Goalie as the ruins of what had been the town of Rockwood flew by beneath them. “One minute fifteen.”

“Copy,” Guru said as the farmland and ranchland whizzed beneath them. They were at 450 Feet AGL and still doing 500 KIAS. A quick glance at the EW display still showed the Mainstay signal and nothing else. “Just the Mainstay.”

“Still?” Goalie asked. “Forty-five seconds.”

“Still,” said Guru, his head on a swivel. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, Music on, and stand by.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara called back, as did the others.

Goalie worked the armament control panel in the back seat. Though Guru had one up front, it was easier for her to do it so that he could concentrate on flying the plane. “Switches set,” she called.

“Good girl,” Guru said as he turned on his ALQ-119 ECM pod.

“Fifteen seconds,” said Goalie. “Santa Anna straight ahead.”

“Got it,” Guru replied as the town became visible. “Flight, Lead. PULL.” He pulled back on the stick, and as 512 gained altitude, the EW display lit up as several radars came on line. “Coors, Rambler. Time to shut some radars down.”

“Roger, Rambler,” Coors One-one called as the two F-4Gs shot ahead of the flight to do their SAM-suppression. “MAGNUM!” A HARM missile left the rails, searching for a target radar.

“One-seven, One-eight, do your TARCAP thing,” Guru called Dave Gledhill's element.

“Roger, Lead,” Paul Jackson, Gledhill's pilot, responded.

“Target at Eleven,” Goalie advised as the supply dump came into view.

“So it is,” Guru replied as “Magnum” calls filled the airwaves. “Sweaty, Lead. Target's in sight. Dealer's choice where you put your bombs. One-five and One-six, get your target in,”

“Roger, Lead,” Sweaty called.

“Roger, Guru,” Dave Golen replied.

“We're set,” said Goalie from the back seat. “All in one.” She meant all bombs released in one pass. That had been a squadron rule since Day One.

Guru nodded as he rolled in. “Then let's do it.” He took 512 down on the bomb run.


In Coleman, General Sisov was in his headquarters, the City Hall, and he was not a happy man. Three days earlier, Marshal Kribov's visit had been delayed-not just due to the air strike on the airport, but that the Marshal himself had been caught in a strike, and his own Yak-40 transport had been wrecked. Though the Marshal had been pleased at what he found when he did get there, dismissing the air strike as an incident of war, he had been upset at some of the manpower issues raised in their meeting. The General had raised the issues of reservists from the RSVN and Vosyka-PVO arriving, and the Marshal hadn't been happy to hear that. Still, despite what the Marshal himself called “Serious reservations,” he told the General to get on with it, and do the best he could, given the circumstances. The RSVN soldiers, who had served as guards around missile sites, at least had some potential as infantry, while the V-PVO men? They would have to learn on-the-job how to operate the various SAM systems at Division and Army level, even though they were a far cry from the S-75 (SA-2) or S-125 (SA-3).

The General got up from his desk and left his office-which had been the Mayor's prewar, and had displaced the garrison commander, a fat Major who still commanded a battalion from a rear-area security unit from Leningrad. At least the Resistance in this area isn't a factor, Sisov thought, though his own intelligence people were convinced-unlike the rear-area people, that the Underground was simply keeping a low profile and biding its time until the U.S. Army got close enough, for the most part. Still, the occasional grafitti, roadside bomb, cut phone line, and sniper activity did show the Soviets that the Resistance had not gone away entirely, and the General knew it. At least my Zampolit isn't too eager, he thought. The new man, who had been the deputy to the previous one, was more concerned with keeping the Army's soldiers motivated than in doing anything to antagonize the civilian population, and that was very important, for the last thing General Sisov wanted was any serious issues with the locals, who didn't hide their contempt for their occupiers, even though things were calm for the most part.

General Sisov gathered his aide and Chief of Staff, and all three were about to leave the headquarters office when shouting outside drew their attention. Suddenly, his Air Force Liaison Officer and two other Air Force men ran for the stairs that led to the roof. Sisov and the two officers with him followed. When they got to the roof, they found the Air Force men with binoculars, and several soldiers with Strela-3 (SA-14) shoulder-fired missiles. “What's going on here?” Sisov roared.

“Air raid alarm, Comrade General,” the senior Air Force man, a Major, replied, pointing to the south.


“Lead in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 down on its bomb run. He saw the airport off to the east, which they had hit the day the RAF flew their first missions, and the flak coming up from both the airport and the supply depot that was the target for his element and Sweaty's. Guru ignored the flak coming up-the 23-mm and 37-mm from around the depot, and the 57-mm from the airport, as he picked out what looked like some fuel trucks at the supply depot. You'll burn, the CO thought as the trucks grew larger in his pipper as he approached bomb release. “And...Steady...Steady...And..And...HACK!” Guru hit his pickle button, releasing his twelve Mark-82s, then he pulled up and away, applying power and jinking to clear the town and the flak. “Lead's off target,” Guru called as he cleared the targe area.


“Not again,” muttered General Sisov as he watched Guru's F-4 make its run. Two of the soldiers on the roof shot missiles, but neither one appeared to guide, the General saw. Then he saw the bombs come off the F-4, and Sisov knew what the target was. Not the Army's main supply depot, he said to himself. Then several fireballs erupted, and that meant fuel. Sisov shook his head, and turned to see the Air Force men watching through their binoculars. Was this an air show to them? Then the General saw the AA guns turning back, and picking up another aircraft before they resumed firing.


“BULLSEYE!” Goalie shouted from 512's back seat. “We've got secondaries!”

“How many?” Guru asked as he jinked left to avoid some tracers, then right to avoid a missile-probably an SA-7 by the size of the smoke trail.

“Several, and they look like fuel tanks going up.”

“Just what I had in mind,” Guru replied as he turned north.


“Two's in!” Kara made the call as she took 520 in on her bomb run. She saw the CO's run, and the fireballs left in his wake, and Kara grinned beneath her oxygen mask. There's more where that came from, Ivan, she thought as she picked out some more trucks-some of which looked like fuelers, others were just plain supply trucks. The flak came up, and Kara ignored it, concentrating on her bomb run. Even a missile, which just flew by on the right side, didn't faze her. “Steady...And..Steady....And...And.. NOW!” Kara hit her pickle button, sending her dozen Mark-82s down onto the Russians below. She then pulled up and away, jinking and applying power as she did, giving the AAA and SAM gunners a harder target. “Two's off safe,” Kara called when she cleared the area.


“Of all the...” Sisov muttered as he saw Kara's F-4 come in. Another soldier fired a missile, only to see the missile seek the setting sun instead of the aircraft, much to the operator's fury (and Sisov's). The General watched as the F-4 released its bombs, then as it pulled away, several explosions-and more fireballs-erupted in the aircraft's wake. The General winced, then he saw the AA gunners on several rooftops spraying machine-gun and 23-mm fire at the departing aircraft, and their tracers fell well short. He looked around, and saw two more F-4s orbiting, and occasionally firing a missile at some target, and two more also orbiting, at a higher altitude, but doing nothing. Then the AA gunners turned back to the south, and that meant more Americans coming in.


“SHACK!” Brainiac shouted in 520's back seat. “Got multiple secondaries back there!”

“How many?” Kara asked as she jinked right to avoid some flak, then left to dodge a missile, then she went right again to pick up the CO.

“Several, and they were good-sized.”

“Good for them,” said Kara as she spotted a smoke trail, then the CO's bird.


“Three's in hot!” Sweaty made that call as she came in on her run. She saw Kara's bird pull up, and the fireballs in its wake. She came in, and spotted several revetments in the northern part of the dump, and that meant ammo. Grinning beneath her oxygen mask, Sweaty lined up some of the revetments in her pipper. She, too, spotted the flak coming up, and ignored it. Even a SA-7 type missile that came head-on, but failed to guide. Ivan, this just isn't your day, she thought as she approached bomb release. “Steady....Steady....And...And....And.....HACK!” Sweaty hit her pickle button, and sent her dozen Mark-82s down onto the burning dump below. She then pulled up, jinking as she went and applying full power to get clear. Once clear of the town, it was time. “Three's off safe.”


“Of all the...” General Sisov muttered as he watched Sweaty's plane make its run. The AA gunners tracked the aircraft, but their shooting left much to be desired, as their tracers flew wide of the target. Then he saw bomb release, and watched as a dozen bombs fell onto the supply dump. A dozen explosions resulted, followed by several sympathetic detonations marking artillery or tank ammunition going up. The General frowned, then heard the cheering below. No doubt the locals were seeing all this, and were showing their appreciation. At least there's not a PSD scum around, Sisov thought-that swine had been killed by a roadside bomb, and no one-locals, garrison, or anyone from 32nd Army for that matter, cared a whit. Then the AA gunners jolted him back to the present, as they turned their guns back south.

“BULLSEYE!” Preacher shouted from Sweaty's back seat. “Multiple secondaries!”

“What kind?” Sweaty asked as she jinked left to avoid a missile, probably an SA-7, then right to dodge some flak tracers.

“Multiple big and righteous!” The ex-seminary student shouted.

“Amen, brother,” Sweaty quipped as she jinked right again, then left, and picked up the CO and Kara, first the smoke trails, then visual on the birds.


“Four in hot!” Hoser called as he came in on his run. He saw the smoke columns and fires burning below, but he was able to pick out a part of the dump that hadn't been hit. As he came in, Hoser saw some trucks, and some more revetments, probably ammo storage. Good, he thought. Ivan, you're having a really bad day. Hoser saw the flak, and the MANPADS, coming up, and ignored them as he concentrated on the bomb run. “Steady....Steady....And...And....NOW!” Hoser hit his pickle button, releasing his dozen Mark-82s, then he pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did. Once he cleared the target area, then he made his call. “Four's off target.”


“Sookin sin...” said General Sisov. Son of a bitch... This certainly was a bitch of an afternoon, he thought. They'd been bombed before-but still....having his Army's main supply depot bombed was not the way he wanted the afternoon to end. Sisov decided to have a few words with the commander of the 272nd SAM Brigade, his Army's main air-defense unit, to see what could be done to improve matters. He turned to his Air Force Liaison Officer when the AA guns turned to the southeast. The next American aircraft was going for the airport....


“GOOD HITS!” That was KT's shout from the back seat.

“How good?” Hoser wanted to know as he jinked right to dodge a missile, then left to avoid tracers, then right again so he could pick up his element lead.

“Big and good!”

“Can't argue with that,” Hoser grinned beneath his oxygen mask. He scanned ahead, and picked up Sweaty's bird directly ahead.


“Five in hot!” Dave Golen called as he came in on his run. The IDF Major saw what the first four had done to their target, and now, it was the airport's turn. As he rolled in, a glance at his EW display showed a AAA radar up, then he saw an antiradar missile-either a HARM or Standard-ARM, fly into a 57-mm site and explode, taking out the radar van, and, he hoped, one or two of the guns with it. The radar signal went off, though the flak kept coming-though the 57-mm battery was out, tracers from 23-mm and puffs from 37-mm showed the gunners were still there. Ignoring the flak, he picked out the ramp area, then he called his wingmate. “Flossy, take the Runway. I'll take the ramp.” Not waiting for her to acknowledge, he concentrated on his bomb run, lining up the ramp area and two field hangars in his pipper, intending to walk his bombs across the field. As he got down, Golen noticed two Su-25s and what looked like a Hind gunship on the ramp. Your lucky day, Ivan, he thought as he got ready. “Steady...And...And....NOW!” He hit the pickle button, sending his six Mark-82s and six M-117s down onto the Russians. Golen then pulled up and away, jinking as he did so, and applying power. Only when he was clear of the target did he make his call. “Five off target.”


General Sisov watched as Dave's F-4 went in on its run, and this time, the bomb release was much closer. He winced as the bombs came off, and the big Phantom pulled away, and the General knew what the target was this time. The airport, he thought to himself. As he watched, the F-4 pulled clear, and the bombs went off, sending up clouds of smoke and dirt, and then four fireballs. What did he hit?” Sisov turned to watch, as two soldiers fired Strela-3 missiles, but neither one appeared to guide. He spat in disgust, then saw the AA guns turning back south. Another one coming in...


“SHACK!” Terry McAuliffe called from Golen's back seat. “Got a few secondaries!”

“What kind?” Golen asked as he jinked left to avoid a missile, then right to avoid some tracers.

“Two big ones and a couple smaller ones,” the GIB replied.

“Their lucky day,” Golen said as he turned north, picking up Sweaty and Hoser as he did.


“Six in hot!” Flossy called as she took 1569 down on the bomb run. She saw Dave Golen's run, and the fireballs that came in its wake, and heard his call. “Roger, Five,” she called back, and lined up the runway in her pipper. Flossy saw the flak, and the shoulder-fired missiles coming up, and ignored both as she concentrated on her bomb run. “And...And...And.....HACK!” Flossy hit her pickle button, sending her six Mark-82s and six M-117s down on the runway. She pulled up and away, applying power and jinking all the way. No sense in giving the flak gunners and missile operators an easy mark, she knew....Once clear of the target, Flossy made her call. “Six off target.”


General Sisov watched as Flossy's F-4 made its run. Shaking his head, he watched as the Phantom released its bombs, and though the airport was the target, he wasn't sure of the target as this time, there weren't any fireballs that came up after the bombs exploded. What was the target? Then he remembered the last time the Americans had paid a visit. Runway, he realized. He then saw two more F-4s fly past, but they didn't attack-were they reconnaissance? Then two more flew by, and the General watched as they headed north. He then turned to his Chief of Staff. “Get a report on the damage on the supply depot. And I mean right now!”

“Immediately, Comrade General,” the Chief replied.


“Six in and out,” Goalie said in 512.

“Still got a game going,” Guru replied. “One-seven and One-eight, get your asses clear of the target.”

“Roger, Lead,” Paul Jackson replied. “On the way out.”

“Coors, Rambler Lead. We're clear,” Guru said to the Weasels.

“Roger, Rambler, we're comin' out,” the Weasel lead called back.

Then the AWACS came on line. “Rambler, Coors. Warlock. Bandits, Bandits. Four Blue Bandits inbound bearing Zero-eight-five for twenty. Medium, closing. Repeat: Closing.” Blue bandits meant MiG-21s.

“Two, on me,” Guru called.

“Right with you, Lead,” Kara replied.

Guru took a quick glance to the right, and found Kara's 520 right with him in Combat Spread.

“Lead, One-seven,” Paul Jackson called. “BREAK!”

Without hesitating, Guru broke left and high, while Kara broke left and low. Both armed their Sidewinders as they turned. Hearing that call, Sweaty and Hoser also broke-she right and high, he left and low. As Guru turned, he saw four MiG-21s coming in. “Tally four Blue Bandits,” he called, using the old Vietnam code for MiG-21s.

“On them, Lead,” Jackson said. “Going radar. Lock one up,” he told Dave Gledhill in the back seat.

“Working...I've got one! Take the shot,” said Gledhill.

“FOX ONE!” Jackson called as he shot his first Sky Flash. Then he squeezed the trigger again. “FOX ONE AGAIN!”


In the lead MiG, an East German Captain saw four F-4s, though the A-50 controller only said two. Given the distance from the radar, he was surprised that the A-50 could pick out that many against the ground clutter. The Captain signaled his wingman, and dove in to the attack. He saw the four F-4s break, and he picked out one of them. Suddenly, his Sirena-3 RWR screamed in his helmet, and he frantically turned his head, looking for threats. Then he saw two missile trails coming, and he turned into the threat. The first missile missed, but the second hit-for he felt the impact and the explosion. He grabbed the handle of his ejection seat, but before he could pull it, a second explosion came, and he was surrounded by fire. The last thing he felt was the heat....

Both Jackson and Gledhill watched as their missiles traced their way to the MiG leader. He turned at the last minute, with one Sky Flash going past him, but the second smashed into his tail. The MiG-21 fireballed, and the other three broke and scattered. “SPLASH ONE!” Jackson called.

“Heard that,” Guru said, looking around. “Tally on one,” he said, picking up a MiG-21 as it turned back towards the east.

Goalie had her head out of the cockpit, looking around. “Six is clear.”

“Two, on me,” Guru called. He wanted this MiG for himself.

“Right with you,” Kara replied. Come on, Guru, let me have this one, she thought.

“Lead, Sweaty. BREAK!” Sweaty called.

Guru broke right and high this time, while Kara went low and to the left. As they did, Guru saw a MiG coming up from below. “Where'd he come from?”

“He wasn't there a second ago!” Goalie shot back as the MiG flew past.

“Not blaming you,” Guru said as he did a 180. “Hard to see back there.”

“Lead, Sweaty. I've got him,” Sweaty said. She rolled in behind the MiG-21, and saw the East German insignia on the tail. “Okay, Franz....” Sweaty muttered. She uncaged a Sidewinder, and got tone, then the growl in her headset growled very loud. Missile lock. “FOX TWO!” She squeezed off a Sidewinder, and the missile took the shape of a rattlesnake as it tracked to the MiG. The Sidewinder flew up the MiG's tailpipe and the MiG-21 fireballed. “SPLASH!”

“Sweaty's got one,” Goalie said.

“I heard,” said Guru as he looked around, for there were two more MiGs out there. “Two, have tally?”

Kara looked around the sky, and saw only F-4s. “No joy, Lead.”

“Roger that, Two,” Guru said. “On me.”

“Where's the other two?” Goalie asked. She had the radar on and was scanning outside as Guru jinked. “Six clear again.”

“Two, check my six.” Guru was still jinking.

Kara turned her head and saw nothing. “Lead, six is clear.”

Dave Golen and Flossy, though, found the other two. “Lead, One-five. Tally two Fishbeds.”

Guru turned in that direction, and saw two MiG-21s heading north, with two SEA-painted F-4s following. “Have eyeballs on you,” Guru replied. “Sweaty, you and Hoser clear us.”

“Roger that!” Sweaty replied as Hoser formed up with her.

In his F-4, Golen centered his pipper on the lead MiG, then both broke-lead to the left, wingman to the right. “Flossy, take the wingman.”

“On him,” Flossy said as she turned to follow the MiG.

Dave Golen heard that as he centered the pipper again on the MiG. Somebody hasn't told this guy a MiG-21 can't turn with an F-4 down low, he thought. No matter.....He centered the pipper on the MiG and armed his 20-mm cannon. He then squeezed the trigger for a two-second burst, just as the Israeli Air Force taught, and that was enough. A hundred and twenty rounds of 20-mm API and HEI rounds tore into the MiG, which caught fire. Then Golen and McAuliffe watched as the MiG-21, trailing fire, smashed into a hill just north of the town. There was no chute. “SPLASH!”


“Dave Golen's got another one,” Goalie said.

“Save it for later,” Guru said. “Still one out there and who knows what else,” he reminded her.


Flossy in 1569 picked up the wingman as he frantically turned left, then right, then left again. She uncaged a Sidewinder and closed in. The MiG driver's turning enabled her to close in, as he bled off airspeed, and she caught up. Then Flossy lined him up in her pipper, and the Sidewinder seeker growled in her headset. It then growled very loud,signaling missile lock. “FOX TWO!” She fired one, then a second, Sidewinder. The MiG turned again, for he might have seen the first missile come off, knowing that Sidewinders couldn't track a target pulling more than 6 Gs, and the first missile did miss. But he reversed his turn, and that solved the problem for the second missile. That AIM-9 flew up his tailpipe and exploded. The tail blew off the MiG, and the Fishbed plunged towards the ground. Just before impact, the pilot ejected, but his chute streamed, and barely had time to open before getting into the trees. “SPLASH!”

“Flossy's got another,” Guru commented. “Warlock, Rambler. Splash four Fishbeds. We are outbound at this time.”

“Roger, Rambler. Threats bearing Two-four-zero for sixty. Medium, closing. Bandits are Fulcrums.”

“Copy that,” said Guru. “Flight, Lead. On me and let's get the hell out of here.” Guru set course north, and saw Kara join up with him in Combat Spread.

“With you, Lead.” his wingmate replied.

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Sweaty?”

Sweaty replied, “On your six, and I've got Hoser.”

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

“Seven and eight with you.” Paul Jackson called.

“Coors One-one and One-two coming out,” the Weasel leader said. “Nice work with the Fishbeds.”

“Copy that and thank you,” Guru replied. “How far to the fence?” He asked Goalie.

Goalie checked her map. “Twenty miles,” she said. “One minute fifteen.”

“Roger that!” Guru said as he continued north. We'll get to the fence before the Fulcrums get here, Guru thought. And if they do follow? There's going to be an Eagle welcoming committee.

“Rambler, Warlock,” the AWACS controller called. “Bandits now Two-three-zero for fifty. Medium, closing.”

Still coming? Guru thought. Well, if that's the way you want to play..... “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Can you get some Eagles if they get too close?”

“That's affirmative, Rambler,” the controller replied. “Outlaw Three-one, Warlock. Bandits bearing One-niner-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing. KILL. Repeat: KILL. Clear to arm, clear to fire.”

“Outlaw Three-one copies,” the F-15 lead said. Using hand signals, she motioned for her flight to follow, and the Eagles headed south, fangs out.

In 512, Guru asked Goalie, “Time to the Fence?”

“Forty-five seconds,” Goalie replied. “Twelve miles.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. He had an eye on the EW display, and though it still showed just the Mainstay's radar, those MiGs could light off their own radars at any moment. “EW still has the Mainstay.”

Goalie shook her head. “Still need to teach those guys a lesson,” she grumbled.

“Girl, you are preaching to the choir,” said Guru. “Thirty seconds?” He wanted to know what was taking so long to knock out the Mainstays himself. When they got to Nellis, maybe he could ask General Tanner. Maybe.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie said.

“Outlaw Three-one has four bandits,” the F-15 leader called out. “Let's go get 'em.”

Just as the F-15s charged south, the F-4s crossed the I-20, and the crews saw the F-15s shoot by overhead. “Get some,” Guru muttered.

Almost as if she had heard Guru, the F-15 Lead took the first AIM-7 shot, and the other three Eagles shot as well. Two MiG-29s went down, and the other two turned back, hoping to draw the F-15s into range of any one of several divisional or Army-level SAM batteries. The Eagles didn't take the bait, and turned back to their CAP station.

“And we're across the fence,” Guru said as the twin concrete ribbons of I-20 passed beneath them. He glanced at the EW display one more time, and saw that the Mainstay radar signal was gone. Finally, he thought.

Goalie let out an audible sigh of relief that the IC picked up. “About time,” she said.

“Flight, Lead. Verify IFF is on and Music off, out,” Guru called to the flight, as he climbed to altitude. He turned off the ECM pod and made sure his IFF was on.

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

Rambler Flight joined up with the tankers, and they noticed the first strikes by the A-6s and F-111s were coming in to top off before going in. The flight joined up with KC-135s this time, and after topping up, got ready to head back to Sheppard or to Reese-which was where the Weasels were based.

“Coors, Rambler. Nice work, fella,” Guru said to the Weasel element lead. “Thanks.”

“Anytime,” Coors One-one replied. “Maybe we can do this again sometime.”

“Glad to have you guys around,” said Guru. Then both flights headed to their home bases.

When Rambler got to Sheppard, it was still light, but they were the last ones to come in. As they came into the pattern, those four pilots who had scored did victory rolls, then the flight came in and landed. As they taxied in, the victors popped their canopies, and held up fingers to signal MiG kills, much to the delight of other air and ground crew who were watching, along with the news crew.

“About time,” Jana Wendt said as the MiG-killers taxied past, to the cheers of the various spectators.

“But not the CO,” Lieutenant Patti Brown, the PAO, said with a tinge of disappointment. From what she'd heard, the CO was due for another kill. All good things come to those who wait, she reminded herself. And she wanted a MiG or two for herself.

After coming off the taxiway, the flight headed to the squadron's dispersal area, then they headed for their revetments. Guru taxied to 512's, and followed Sergeant Crowley's signals to taxi into the revetment. Once in, he stopped, and the ground crew came out with the wheel chocks, and then Guru shut down. Guru and Goalie had already popped and raised their canopies, and after going through the post-flight checklist, they stood up in their cockpits as the ground crew brought the crew ladder. “Four and done,” Guru said as he took off his helmet.

“And a day off tomorrow, thanks to Mama Nature,” Goalie quipped. “Do need to catch up.”

“On sleep,” Guru agreed. “And certain other things,” he grinned.

Goalie let out a grin of her own. “Good to see you want to get caught up with bedroom gymnastics.”

“That's one way to kill time on a stand-down,” Guru said as he climbed down from the aircraft. Goalie did the same, and they did a quick post-flight walk-around, then they came to the Crew Chief. “Sarge,” Guru said as Crowley handed both of them a bottle of water-and Guru proceeded to drain half of his right away. “Five-twelve's still going strong. She's due for a hundred-hour, right?”

“That she is, Major,” Crowley said. “We'll get started on that, and finish up in the morning. Word's gone around you're taking that prissy reporter up.”

Guru shook his head. “Not her, but the cameraman,” he said. “Captain Thrace is taking the reporter.”

“Still trying to scare her off this base?” Goalie asked.

“No, she's made of sterner stuff,” Guru admitted. “But if we can get her airsick, and maybe appreciate what we do day in and day out.”

“To be wished for,” Goalie spat. She didn't mind the reporter, but still had a lingering suspicion of the press. Some of her Academy instructors were Vietnam vets, and they had passed down their dislike of the press to many a cadet.

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Didn't get any MiGs, but there's always next time. Sooner or later, Sarge, you'll get that ninth-and maybe tenth-red star on the bird.”

The Crew Chief grinned. “We'll be waiting, Major. And don't worry about that hundred-hour check. We'll have her ready by afternoon. You can take that to the bank.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” said Guru. Then he and Goalie left the ground crew to their work, and headed to the revetment's entrance, where Kara and Brainiac were waiting. “Well, no joy on the MiGs this time.”

Kara shook her head. “At least we tore up that supply dump,” She replied. “We both had a lot of secondaries.”

“And maybe next time, the MiGs cooperate,” Brainiac added. He wanted to be a double ace himself.

“Maybe,” Guru said. He was looking for his ninth-and tenth kills himself. “And where'd that one MiG come from?” He was referring to the MiG that had gotten into his and Goalie's blind spot.

“Not there one second, then there the next,” Goalie said, shaking her head. “How'd I miss him?”

“He was in your blind spot,” Sweaty said as she and Preacher, with Hoser and KT came up. “Hard for me to see, and harder for Preacher.”

Preacher nodded. “Or any other GIB.”

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Not blaming you,” he said to Goalie. “But thanks for killing him,” the CO said to Sweaty. “Who were they?”

“East Germans,” Dave Golen said as he and Flossy, with Terry McAuliffe and Jang, came up. “Anyone else see the insignia?”

Sweaty nodded. “I did,” she said. “They were good, I'll say this.”

“They had guts, tangling with us at low level,” Guru admitted. “Sweaty got the guy who tried to line us up.”

“And Dave Golen got a gun kill,” Flossy said. “Isn't this your first here?”

“It is,” the IDF Major said with pride. The Israelis prided themselves on gun kills over any with missiles. Even though most of those scored in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot had been missile kills.

“That's what, seven here for you?” Goalie asked.

“Yes, and for Flossy, too.”

“How'd you do on the airport?” Guru wanted to know.

“Tore up the ramp area,” Golen said. “Got a couple of Su-25s, and maybe a Hind, too.”

The CO nodded. “And Flossy got the runway.” It wasn't a question.

Flossy grinned. “It's a bunch of craters, and I'll bet it'll be back operational tomorrow.”

Guru nodded, then he spat. “No bet. This stalemate reminds me of everything I've read or heard about Southeast Asia.”

“No arguing that,” Goalie said. She was the only Academy grad in the flight. “Some of my instructors would say the same thing. “Had a few Vietnam vets as instructors back at the Springs.”

Then the RAF crews came over. “Well, that was interesting,” Dave Gledhill said. “MiG-21s, and those were East Germans.”

“You noticed,” said Sweaty. “And you guys got one.”

“My seventh, but Paul's fourth,” the RAF Squadron Leader said. “Next time...”

“Always, that,” Susan Napier replied.

Guru nodded, then whispered something to Kara. She went to her Crew Chief, and came out of her revetment. She nodded to the CO. Guru and several others went to 520's revetment while Flossy and Jang were talking. Then Flossy stepped aside. “Jang?”

Jang turned when she heard the CO's voice. “Major?” Then she saw the CO, Goalie, Kara, Brainiac, Dave Golen, Flossy, and Hoser all with buckets of water. “Oh, fuck.”

Guru yelled, “NOW!” And those with the buckets splashed Jang with cold water! “Congratulations, Jang! You're now a backseat ace, and no one can take that from you.”

Jang nodded, then shook her head. “Damn, Major, that's cold!”

“Better that than any of the lakes around here,” said Guru. “Okay, people!” he added, putting his CO's hat on. “We need to debrief and make the intel folks happy. Then check your desks before heading to the Club.”

“Do we have to make those chairborne warriors happy?” Kara spat. She, like almost everyone else in the squadron, had little use for bureaucracy and those who inhabited it.

“Unfortunately,” Guru said. He checked his watch. “It's 1645. Let's get it done, then we can blow off some steam.”

Sweaty grinned. “And no twelve-hour for everybody-except those stiffs pulling Zulu Alert.”

The CO nodded. “You've got that right. Come on and let's go. Get this over and done with.”
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Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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  #533  
Old 03-15-2020, 12:24 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Blowing off steam and celebrating MiG kills...Remember, even though it's a stand-down coming, it's "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow they may not separate us from the rest of the aircraft." And a very......inquisitive flight surgeon:



335th TFS CO's Office: 1655 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser sat behind his desk, clearing out his IN Box. Fortunately, there wasn't much, and what was there was rapidly dispatched to the OUT box. Silently cursing the AF bureaucracy, the CO got up and looked out his office window. Another day done, he thought as the first signs of dusk came. How many more, before this is all over, he mused. Too many, that was the answer that popped into his mind. He went to his desk and made sure it was tidy, before a knock on the door interrupted him. “Yeah? Come on in and show yourself!”

The office door opened and the Exec, Capt. Mark Ellis, came in. “Boss, got a couple of things for you before we hit the Club.”

Guru nodded. “Okay, Mark. What have you got?”

“First, the storm's coming in, right on schedule,” the Exec said, handing the CO another weather update. “Rain starts after 2200, and we should be wet until noon at least.”

“Lovely,” Guru spat. “F-111s and A-6s down low for us, Su-24s for the bad guys, and up above at Angels twenty, it's anyone who's a fighter or recon bird. But...”

“I know what you mean,” Ellis nodded. “Anyway, Doc's going to supervise the drawing for who sits Zulu Alert tomorrow. He'll do it before 1800.”

The CO nodded approval. “Good. Because for some people, twelve-hour kicks in then, and it also means Early-Bird. Flight leads draw. Anything else?”

“The Scroungers have been busy, Chief Ross says. They found us three dozen more kits for laser bombs.”

Guru let out an evil-looking grin. “About time. Next time we get a point target, we pull the assigned ordnance and hang GBU-10s instead, and somebody gets to use either Pave Spike or Pave Tack,” the CO said, referring to the two laser designators the squadron used. Not that much, he knew, but that would change.

“Understood. And they also found three dozen Maverick-Ds,” said Ellis.

The CO's jaw dropped. AGM-65Ds? “The IIR Mavericks?” Seeing the XO nod, he went on. “I take it the paperwork regarding all of these-and this includes the GBU kits-has been....created?”

Ellis said, “It has.”

“That's a relief. Because I don't want somebody showing up wondering where his laser bomb kits or Mavericks are when we've used half of 'em. What's next?”

“That's it,” said the XO.

Guru was pleased. Now they could hit the Club. He got up and grabbed his bush hat. “The bar, and food, await.” Seeing Ellis nod, Guru added, “Let's go.”


When Guru and the Exec got to the Club, the place was already buzzing. Word of Jang becoming a backseat ace-and thus forming an all-female ace team with Flossy-had traveled fast, as did something that both 335th officers heard when they got there, namely, a Marine crew from VMFA-333 had made ace themselves, but there was a catch that had people's eyes perk up. For all five kills the crew had made were all helos. Either Hips or Hinds, much to the crew's chagrin. No matter: a kill's a kill, that was what fighter pilots all over thought. Still, starting out with one's first five kills as helos was unusual. Though both Guru and Ellis had heard of A-7 and A-10 drivers who were aces-and had killed helos to do it.

The two bellied up to the bar, and found Smitty there, waiting for them as usual. “Smitty, what have you got this evening?” Guru asked the barkeep.

“No Sam Adams, Major, sorry about that.” The barkeep replied.

Guru nodded. Oh, well....not the first time. “So, what's available?”

“Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Lite, Olympia,” Smitty recited what he had.

“Bud for me,” Guru nodded again.

“And for me,” Ellis added. “I'll pay for both.” Seeing Guru turn to him, he said, “Only fair I buy for you once in a while, Boss.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. Ellis paid the barkeep, and both raised their bottles. After they drank, the two noticed Flossy and Jang coming in, with the reporter and cameraman following. “Well, now,” Guru observed. “If Flossy and Jang weren't targets already, they are now.”

The XO nodded, just as Colonel Brady came over. “Major, Captain,” the MAG-11 CO said. “Smitty, the usual.” After the barkeep handed Brady a Bud, he said to Guru. “Major, you've got an all-female ace team. Isn't that a first?”

“First in the squadron, for sure,” Guru admitted. “Maybe in the whole Air Force for all I know. And Ms. Wendt's all over them.” He indicated the reporter, who was talking to both crewers, and there was much waving of hands as they demonstrated the kill that made Jang an ace.

Brady nodded. “Speaking of that reporter, tomorrow's her check ride, if I heard you from last night.”

“It is, and Kara's taking her up,” Guru said, indicating Kara, who was talking with Dave Golen.

“And you've got the cameraman, Boss,” the Exec grinned. “Going to make him puke?”

The CO smiled. “Maybe, or see which one's made of sterner stuff,” he joked. “Seeing both of them puking on the ramp after it's over would be worth it.”

“I'd love to see that,” Ellis said. “Then again, maybe I will.”

“I'd like to see that as well, Major,” Brady added.

“Don't worry, sir,” said Guru. “One way or another, it'll be on film.”

Brady laughed. “No doubt, Major.” Then they noticed Frank coming in, and both he and Flossy exchanged looks. The glare she sent his way spoke volumes. “Those two don't like each other, I've heard.”

“No, sir,” Guru said. “They do have a history, and it's not good.” He explained for a minute. “And everytime she sees him, it's the 'Don't fuck with me again' look.”

“And if looks were daggers, he'd be bleeding,” Ellis added.

Colonel Brady shook his head. “Major, If I were you, I'd shit-can him and send him packing. I do know why you can't, though.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru nodded. “But...if either my flight surgeon finds something that requires him to be sent away for some tests-and after that, he's flying a desk someplace. Or, Sundown Cunningham pays a visit sometime between now and Christmas? Frank gets booted off this base so fast he never knows what hit him.”

“To be wished for, anyway,” Mark Ellis said. “Or he has a fuckup in the air, and winds up in front of a General Court-Martial. Or gets himself-and only himself-killed.”

“Either answer can be graded as correct, sir,” said Guru.

Brady gave a sympathetic nod. “No doubt, Major. You people have a good rest of the evening, and if you're not on Zulu Alert, sleep in tomorrow.”

“Here's hoping,” Guru said. “Thank you, sir.” He then shook hands with his Exec, then went to the table his flight used. “Looks like Jang's getting some attention.”

Kara nodded. “Not every day you get just a backseat ace only,” she said. “Wonder if it was like this for Chuck DeBellevue or Jeff Feinstein?” Kara was referring to the AF's top aces in Southeast Asia, both of whom had six kills-all from the back seat.

“Probably,” KT said. “Where's Goalie?”

“She went to get the papers,” Sweaty replied as Goalie came back to the table.

“Got the L.A. Times for the CO, Orange County Register for me,” Goalie said, tossing the papers on the table. “And who wants USA Today and Stars and Stripes?”

“I'll take USA,” said Hoser. And as he did, his flightmates watched as the first place he went was the sports section. Even though pro and college sports had been curtailed due to the war, there was still enough to keep sports fans interested, as well as entertaining those on the Home Front as well as the front lines. But he did give the front page to his element lead.

“Stars and Stripes for me,” Kara said, and Goalie handed her the paper.
“Not much happening,” Sweaty said, reading USA Today's front page. “Though Proxmire's scandal got a little wider.”

“Got that here,” Guru said. “Page one in the L.A. Says here one of his aides turned, and he's cooperating with the FBI.”

“Wouldn't you?” Brainiac asked. “Especially when not flipping means life in Marion or a needle.”

“No-brainer there,” the CO admitted. “Jerry Brown's making an ass of himself again. We didn't call him 'Governor Moonbeam' for nothing, you know.”

Goalie looked at him, then the Orange County Register's front page. “Same here. Says he's going to run for the Democratic nomination next year.”

“If he wants to commit political suicide, he's welcome to do it,” Guru replied. “Your story say he's running as a peace candidate?”

“It does. He's saying that someone needs to run as a peace candidate, and he's going to be one.”

“Well, he made an ass of himself in '80,” said Guru. “Might as well do it again.” With those expected to run staying out, and for good reason, Guru knew, the ones who didn't get much traction in normal years were probably going to run. Though anyone who went up against Bush was going to regret it. Very.

Kara looked up from Stars and Stripes' international news section. “They had a free-for-all in West Berlin.”

“A riot?” Sweaty asked, and Kara nodded. “How big?”

“Pretty big rumble, I'd say. The pro-neutralists-and they were waving red and black flags, mind-had about 50,000. The anti-neutralists had about the same. Lots of property destruction, and the usual arrests.”

“Of the pro-Reds, I'll bet,” Goalie said. “Speaking of Germany, the Bundeswehr exercise is still going.”

“The coup's coming,” said Preacher. “When?”

“That's the question for Final Jeopardy,” Guru quipped.

Dave Gledhill then came over. “Heard this on the BBC's shortwave. The Italian Prime Minister was assassinated.”

“What?” Sin Licon said from a nearby table.

“That's right. Seems the chap was wavering, thinking about tossing the neutralist partners in their government. The Red Brigades claimed they did the job.”

“Meaning the KGB issued the hit,” Goalie said. “And they pulled the trigger.”

“That's about the size of it.”

Then the Mess crew arrived, bringing the meals whose prep had been supervised by the restauanteurs who had taken over the Marines' mess operation-with Colonel Brady's blessing. “People, we've got Bison meat loaf, or Chicken done Tex-Mex style, with all the fixin's. Come and get it.

After people got what they wanted, it was time for the CBS Evening News. After Walter Cronkite came on, the lead was about the Proxmire scandal. “Why doesn't Proxmire just quit?” Don Van Loan asked.

“The farmers in Wisconsin do like the milk subsidies he gets them,” the XO replied. “If he has any sense, he'll just announce he's not running for reelection.”

“If,” Cosmo spat. She had good reason to despise the Senator, even more than those who had been in the military prewar.

Then the news turned to the stalled battle lines in Texas, where, from the desert of West Texas all the way to the Louisiana and Arkansas state lines, things had settled down to a stalemate. That was followed by a carrier raid on Alaska, and the riot in West Berlin. After that, news from Rome, where the pro-neutralist Italian Government was running into trouble-namely, the Interior Minister and the Finance Minister quitting due to a sex scandal in the FM's case, and the Interior Minister's brother being arrested as a member of the Red Brigades terrorist group.

“About time,” Guru observed. “When West Germany and Italy go, the neutralists are finished.”

“That'll be the day,” Colonel Brady said.

The newscast concluded with an On the Road segment, with Charles Kuralt visiting Cape Hattaras, North Carolina. There, a Coast Guard station was keeping watch, not just for hazards of the sea, but also Soviet subs and Spetsnatz swimmers. “Found a few of those guys a month or so ago,” a Coast Guardsman said. “Kept 'em occupied until some Marines from LeJune came to finish the job.”

Kuralt then visited a British Cemetery at Ocracoke Island, where four British sailors whose armed trawler had been sunk by a U-Boat off the Cape in 1942 had been laid to rest, and several new graves had been added-for a British frigate escorting a convoy bound for Charleston had been sunk by a Soviet sub, and eight bodies had washed ashore. Just as in 1942, the locals had opened their hearts to their country's allies. So eight British seamen now joined their fellow sailors at rest on American soil, far from home.

Cronkite then gave his trademark closing. “And that's the way it is. For all of us at CBS News, good night.”

After the newscast ended, Guru stood up. “Colonel, if you don't mind, I've got some squadron business to take care of.”

“Go right ahead, Major,” Brady said.

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said. He then nodded to Doc, who produced a hat. “For one flight, Twelve-Hour starts now. Then another in two hours, and so on. For these are the stiffs who are going to pull Zulu Alert tomorrow. Yeah, I know, it's a stand-down, with wind and rain most of the day, but up at Angels Twenty, it's CAVU. Doc's got the hat, and the flight leads draw.” Guru then went over to Doc, and as CO, drew first. He read the slip of paper. “Noon to 1400,” he said.

“Last Call's at midnight, so..” Kara grinned.

“It is. “XO?”

Mark Ellis came up, and drew. “1000 to Noon,” he said.

Guru nodded, then turned to Van Loan. “Ops?”

Don Van Loan came up, and drew. “Great. 1400 to 1600.”

“My turn, and please let it be 1600-1800,” Kerry Collins said as his turn came up. No such luck. “0800 to 1000.”

Guru grinned, then said, “Okay, now two elements will handle the last two: 0600 to 0800, and 16 to 18. Your turn, Dave,” he said to Dave Golen.

The IDF Major came up, and Doc stirred the pot. Then it was time to draw. “I'm lucky. 1600-1800.”

“That leave two element leads left. T-Bone and Frank,” the CO said. “Frank, you're senior, so you first.”

There was silence-even from the Marines and Navy there-as the most hated man in the 335th, as well as MAG-11, made his draw. A groan followed. “0600 to 0800,” Carson said.

“Okay, T-Bone and the rest? Congratulations. You all get the whole day off,” Guru said. “Doc will remind each element or flight when Twelve-Hour kicks in for you.”

Doc Waters spoke next. “Frank, that means now for your people.”

The snotty Major nodded, albeit reluctantly. “Understood, Doc.” At least the order came from someone who he actually respected, and not that upstart who was CO.

“One other thing, people!” Guru said. “Jang, stand and be recognized.”

“Uh-oh...” several people muttered.

Jang stood up, with Flossy, Dave Golen, and Terry McAuliffe close by. “Major,” she nodded.

“All right, folks, Jang, here, became a backseat ace today. Thanks to Flossy's flying and some East German who thought at low level, he could take on an F-4. The two of you proved him wrong, and he became Flossy's seventh, and your fifth,” the CO said. “So, that means, Jang, you're now a certified, card-carrying aerial assassin, and nobody can take that away from you!”

“Thanks, Major,” Jang beamed. She then laughed as Buddy, the squadron's mascot came to her.

“ARF!” The dog barked, and everyone laughed.

“Even the dog approves,” Dave Gledhill observed.

“He does,” said Guru. “Except for Frank's element, drink up!” Guru then went to the bar and got a plate of nachos and another beer. When he got back to the table, Kara had already left. “Kara's gone to hold court.”

“She did,” Sweaty replied. “One of the RAF Rockape officers challenged her.”

“This I have to see,” Guru said, and then Dave Gledhill came up. “Dave,” he nodded.

“I warned you about the Rockapes,” the Squadron Leader reminded the 335th's CO.

Both combatants laid down their money, and though it was close, the RAF officer won out. Kara paid him, then came over in a rage. “Where'd he learn to play?”

“You'd have to ask him that,” Gledhill said. Though he was pleased to see the Wild Thing taken by one of his people.

“Watch it,” Guru told him. “She'll get slightly drunk, then challenge another to show it wasn't a fluke.”

Almost as if she had heard her CO, Kara went and got another beer. She downed half of it, then went back to the pool table. Another RAF Regiment officer challenged her, and again, she accepted. This time, her skills were superior, and the RAF man was out $50.00. “Next!”

Karen McKay turned to Goalie. “She's always like this?”

“Especially after she loses,” said Goalie. “Kara goes and beats the next three or four to show that the guy who beat her was lucky.” And I'm glad I never played with her after the first night, Goalie silently added. How many student hangouts near Auburn banned her because of her skills, she wondered.

True to form, Kara then dispatched a transiting C-130 driver doing an RON, his navigator, and to top things, VA-135's XO. “Are you satisfied?” She asked the crowd, echoing one Wild Bill Hickock after a gunfight.

“Anyone beat her more than once?” McKay asked.

“Three have. And all three have stars on their shoulders,” Goalie grinned. “General Tanner, General Olds, and you missed him by a day, General Yeager.”

The night went on, and when it was almost 2200, Goalie came to the table and found Guru there, nursing his fourth beer. “Well?”

“Been a long day,” Guru said. “Some air-to-air, Jang an ace, and oh, by the way, we still haven't lost anyone, the one RAF loss excepted.”

“Yet,” Goalie said. “Sooner or later, though....”

“Yeah.”


A few minutes later, Kerry Collins and Ryan Blanchard got up to leave, with Ryan slinging her M-16. “I think I know what they have in mind.” Guru said.

“So do I,” said Goalie. She was looking forward to some of that herself.

Then Don Van Loan and Sweaty went by, and their expressions showed to anyone watching what they had in mind. Guru nodded, finished his beer. “Well, I'm done for tonight.”

“Not necessarily,” Goalie reminded him as her own expression grew coy, and Flossy and Scorpion left, with similar intentions.

“I know what you mean,” said Guru. “Mark? You all have a good night, and sleep in. Get up when you feel like it.”

“That an order?” Kara asked.

“Why not?” Guru said. Then he and Goalie left the Club and headed to the CO's tent. On the way, they passed Don Van Loan's, and the sounds of passion could be heard from it. High and loud. “They're getting it on.”

“Can we be as loud?” Goalie wanted to know.

“One way to find out,” Guru said as they went into the CO's tent. When they got in, Guru went to an ice chest and got out some 7-UP, thanks to Chief Ross and the scroungers. “Still can't get any champagne, Ross said.”

“Enough of that,” Goalie said. She unzipped her flight suit, and Guru saw there was nothing beneath.

“You came prepared,” he said as she came to do the same to him.

“Always,” said Goalie, then when finished, they went after each other.


In the shadows nearby, a figure was listening. All four couples among the aircrews were....together. He smiled, and jotted down some notes. Doc Waters grinned, for he had told the CO what he planned to do after the war. Namely, do a journal article, and someone might find how wartime romances went with fighter pilots to be....interesting. Doc smiled to himself, took a few more notes, then left for his own tent and rack.
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  #534  
Old 03-16-2020, 02:13 PM
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those SA-4 each pack 150kg warhead. two going off is worse than a 500 pounder... maybe a 750. I wonder what would happen if one of those f4s does a low level buzz at over the speed of sound. it worked pretty good in the Stan about getting a group to give up. I think someone posted a video of something like that on youtub

looking forward to more.
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Old 03-18-2020, 10:00 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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When those SAMs don't find a target, they either self-destruct in the air, or if they don't, they fall with a very big bang. The same goes for AAA fire: if it's fuzed for contact, it has to come down somewhere. Unfortunately, it's the civilian population that fares the worst when that happens.

Any thoughts on the air-to-air action, gents? Who's getting it, and who isn't? Kara wants to be the first female double ace in the USAF...
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Old 03-19-2020, 02:35 PM
Adm.Lee Adm.Lee is offline
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I'm following some of the posts, but I'm also playing a pair of PBEM games of "Red Storm: the air war over central Germany, 1987" by GMT.

The Phantoms in the current scenarios are all air-to-air, since it's the Pact's turn to run a bombing raid.
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Old 03-24-2020, 10:09 AM
cawest cawest is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Wiser View Post
When those SAMs don't find a target, they either self-destruct in the air, or if they don't, they fall with a very big bang. The same goes for AAA fire: if it's fuzed for contact, it has to come down somewhere. Unfortunately, it's the civilian population that fares the worst when that happens.

Any thoughts on the air-to-air action, gents? Who's getting it, and who isn't? Kara wants to be the first female double ace in the USAF...
I was thinking about those SAMs in the dump they just hit.

A to A. how about a helo hunt? the F15/16 are keeping the 29 occupied and the f-4 (loaded with Aim-9 and very few Aim7) stay low and clip some rotor wings.

they also might be good to collect some transports instead of CAS. dealing with the escorts could be trouble.
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Old 03-24-2020, 09:22 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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There might be a chopper hunt later on.

When SAM depots get it, some of the missiles do go off on their own-and hit whatever's in the way. (saw this in both SEA and in 1991 Iraq)
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Old 03-25-2020, 03:57 PM
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There might be a chopper hunt later on.

When SAM depots get it, some of the missiles do go off on their own-and hit whatever's in the way. (saw this in both SEA and in 1991 Iraq)

ahhhh the ground launched Hellfire. .
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Old 03-25-2020, 10:04 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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First part of the stand-down....



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, Texas; 23 November 1987: 0725 Hours Central War Time:

The sound of rain hitting the roof of the tent finally woke its occupants up. Sort of, anyway. Guru opened his eyes, then looked at his watch, then the clock on the nightstand he had next to his camp bed. 0725, he saw. He turned in bed, and found Goalie still asleep, or at least, trying to get back to sleep, the covers having slid off her chest and belly during the night-and what a night it had been. How many times did they do it, Guru wondered, before they did fall asleep. Then at least once during the middle of the night, and again an hour or so before. Well, we did want to make up for lost time, he thought as Goalie finally woke up, sitting up in bed. “And good morning, sleepyhead,” he said.

“Morning,” she replied, still groggy. “What time is it?”

“It's 7:25,” he said. “And it's still raining.”

“Gee, I left my ten-gallon hat at home,” she joked. “Feel worn out?”

Guru chuckled. “Very. And we'll probably get worn out again tonight, knowing both our moods.”

“Eat, drink, and be merry...” Goalie started.

“For tomorrow they may not separate us from the rest of the airplane,” he finished. “Yeah. First things first, though. Got to slay the armchair warriors.”

“Ugh,” Goalie said. “Don't those people ever give up?”

“No. Then we've got the alert stint from Noon to 1400, then Kara and I are taking the reporter and cameraman up.”

“And seeing the reporter puking on the ramp would be worth seeing,” Goalie laughed. “I'll bring my camera.”

“Do that, and doesn't Kara have a camcorder?”

“She does,” Goalie said. Though she wondered what Kara had videotaped with it. Then again, did she want to know? Probably not.

“Tell her to bring it. Twenty years from now-if we're all still alive-we can relive that at squadron reunions.”

Goalie nodded as she got out of bed and began to get into her flight suit. “Will do.”

“Okay, see you at breakfast. And if Kara's not there....” said Guru.

“Then we know where she is and what she's up to,” Goalie smiled as she finished dressing. “See you in a few.” Then she headed out, into the rain and for her own tent, then a shower.

Guru nodded after she left. “Yeah.” Then he got up, threw on a raincoat, got his things, and ran for the shower.

After the shower, he went to breakfast, and found Don Van Loan and Sweaty sharing a table, with Kara and Hoser already there. “Well, Boss,” Kara grinned. “Now I know why Goalie didn't come home last night.”

“How about you? Have a, uh, 'collection'?” Guru asked as he dug into his breakfast; chicken-fried steak (well, bison steak, really), eggs, hash browns, and toast.

“Nope, strictly voluntary,” Kara said. “But we did use the supply tent.”

“This time it was voluntary,” Sweaty muttered.

“This time,” Van Loan agreed as Goalie and Dave Golen came. “Morning, Dave,” he said.

“Morning,” the IDF “Observer” said as Goalie sat down next to the CO. “I see everybody's a little tired this not-so-fine morning. Does it always rain like this in Texas?”

“When it does, it does,” Guru said, sipping his coffee. “Be glad it's not hurricane season. When one of those slams into the Gulf Coast? Half the state can get a good soaking.”

“Be glad it's not tornado season,” Mark Ellis added as he came over. “First Cav was about to attack a town in the Panhandle-Hereford, I think it was, and the Russians there were going to make a stand. Storm developed, and a tornado smacked into the town. Killed some locals, killed some Russians, and both groups were still picking up the pieces when 1st Cav arrived. By the time the Russians realized the Cav was there, it was too late. So they ran up a white flag, and after they were disarmed, the Cav kept them at work, clearing the debris and searching for survivors.”

“I'll take the hurricane, thanks,” Dave Golen said. “That, you have advance notice, and can fly away from.”

“We are in Tornado Country,” Don Van Loan said. “They had one here in '79 that killed a few people, and tore up quite a bit.”

“And if we get warning of a tornado?”

“Clear the field of everything that can fly,” said Guru. If we can, he silently added.


After breakfast, the CO went to his office, and when he got there, he found Digger, Flossy's regular GIB, taking his turn as SDO. “Digger,” Guru said. “How's the ankle?”

“Comin' along fine, Boss,” Digger replied. He had been grounded due to a severe ankle sprain several days prior, and Jang had taken his place in Flossy's back seat.

Guru nodded. “That's good. Doc clear you?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay, when he does, you may not go back to Flossy. She and Jang are doing mighty good together.”

“I heard, Boss,” Digger said. “Saw she got Jang to backseat ace. Flossy say anything about wanting me back?”

Guru shook his head. “No, and to be honest, I haven't thought about asking her. I'll talk to her today and see if she does want you back. If so, fine. If not, I do want to pair you up with a newbie pilot.”

“Babysit a new pilot?” Digger asked. He knew that vets did get paired up with new pilots or GIBs, because they had a habit of keeping both of them alive long enough for the FNG to become a veteran.
“Did it myself when Goalie reported,” Guru reminded him. “Colonel Rivers had the same policy when he was CO.”

Digger nodded. “And that turned out fine,” he said. “Okay, who?”

“Not sure yet. Make that call in a day or so.”

“Fair enough, Boss.” Then he got down to business. “XO's in your office, and folks have been sitting alert.”

“All right, thanks.” Guru then went to his office, saying a few pleasant words to his secretary, then he went in. “Mark,”

“Boss,” the XO said. “Got the usual admin stuff for you.” He handed the CO a clipboard and a pen. “Morning report for both Tenth Air Force and MAG-11.” The 335th was still a USAF squadron, and so they sent the AF admin stuff to Nellis, and the OPCON-related material to MAG-11.

Guru signed both papers. “That's done. What else?”

“Weather,” Ellis nodded. “Here's the update.” He handed the CO the weather report.

“Turning to showers, clearing by afternoon. Cloud tops out at 15,000.” The CO grinned. “Then I can give our friends from the news media a check ride.”

“And I'll be there on the ramp when you get back,” said Ellis. “Seeing the reporter puke.”

“One can hope,” the CO smiled. “Anything else?”

“Supply requisitions.” The XO handed the CO the forms. “How they managed it, I have no idea, but two refurbished J-79 engines are coming to us,” he said. “Plus the other stuff.”

“Hmm....” Guru said, scanning the list. “Fifty cases of fruit cocktail?”

Ellis said, “I saw that myself. The scroungers need it for horse-trading.”

“Fair enough,” said Guru. “Oh, before I forget. Get Chief Ross and Airman Kellogg over here.”

“Now?”

“Might as well get this over with,” the CO said, dreading some of what he'd have to say to the young airman.

“Will do.”

“And stay when they get here.”

The XO nodded. He knew what would be happening, and having a shoulder for Kellogg to cry on-if necessary-or two, would be a good thing. “I'll get them.”

A few minutes later, Chief Ross and Airman Kellogg came in. “Reporting as ordered, sir,” Ross said as both saluted.

Guru returned the salute, and nodded. “As you were. Kellogg, I'm afraid I have some bad news.”

“My folks?” Kellogg asked. His parents had stayed behind when the Soviets were approaching Wichita Falls during the drive north to the Red River and beyond, and had been arrested during the occupation.

“Nothing definite,” the CO said. “But it looks like they're in that mass grave.”

Kellogg said nothing for a moment, and Guru, the XO, and Chief Ross were expecting him to break down and start crying. But he was sterner than that. “What do they know, sir?” He said, showing some maturity beyond his sixteen and a half years. Maybe the time in the refugee camp in Wyoming and AF basic training had drilled that into him.

“All we know is that, thanks to the Chief's OSI contact, Ivan kept records of those they arrested, and those they either sent off to a labor camp somewhere, or even released. And your folks are on the arrest list, but not the labor camp or release one.”

The XO looked at the Chief. “They destroyed the execution records?”

“My OSI guy says it looks that way, sir,” Ross said. “The local KGB and DGI were pretty thorough in destroying what they wanted to destroy.”

“And the bodies, sir?” Kellogg asked.

“Captain Blanchard had a look at the grave-she's an ex-cop, by the way. She said the FBI told her that Ivan made everyone strip before being bound, blindfolded, and shot. So no ID on the bodies. And the deeper you go in the grave? The more decomposed the bodies are,” Guru said. He didn't add that the more recent bodies all showed signs of torture before they had been shot, but no need to tell Kellogg that.

“So they're in the grave?” Kellogg said, his voice shaky.

Guru nodded, then came and put his hands on the airman's shoulder. “I'm sorry.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Kellogg. “Sir, next time you go out on a mission? Make those bastards pay.”

The CO nodded. “We'll do just that,” he said. “Chief, any word on the siblings?”

“Mixed, sir,” Ross said. “No word on your brother, but there may be a lead on your sister. My OSI friend says a Jennifer Kellogg, who gave her home state as Texas, joined the Air Force a week after the invasion, out of Little Rock.”

“It might be her....” Kellogg said.

“Maybe,” Guru said. “Chief, your OSI pal certain of this?”

Ross nodded. “Not enough to take into court, but he's pretty certain. He hasn't gotten a reply on the SSN, but should in a week or so.”

“All right,” the CO said. “Kellogg? If you want to take the rest of the day off? You have my permission to do just that. In fact, you may also want to talk to a Sky Pilot, if that's what you think you need to do.”

“Sir, I'd like to stay busy, because work keeps my mind off of that, but...” Kellogg said. “I'll see a chaplain after lunch.”

“Good,” Guru said. “Now, why don't you wait outside for a minute or two? The XO, Chief, and I have a couple of things to talk about.”

“Yes, sir,” Kellogg said, saluting.

Guru returned it, and after Kellogg left, he turned to both Ellis and Chief Ross. “Keep an eye on him. Both of you, and pass that to Kev O'Donnell.” Capt. Kevin O'Donnell was the squadron's Maintenance Officer.

“Will do, Boss,” the Exec replied.

“Yes,sir,” Ross added.

Guru nodded. “Thanks, Chief.”

“Sir,” Ross said, then he left the office, taking Kellogg with him.

“Well?” Guru asked his XO.

Ellis shook his head. “Not so sure I would've been as calm. Then again, this is something they don't teach in any officer training.”

Guru nodded, this time grimly. “No. Now, to brighter things. You've got an alert stint in ten minutes.” He looked at the clock on his office wall, which said 0950. “Time to round up your people, gear up, and sit around hoping that siren doesn't sound.”

“And your people relieve us in two hours.”

“That we do,” said Guru. “Just stay away from the suggestion of pork tri-tip. There's been a few fools around here who seem to like that crap.”

“They brave, foolish, or suicidal?” Ellis asked as he opened the office door.

“Any of the three can be graded as correct,” Guru said dryly. He did wonder about that F-20 guy, Pruitt, who seemed to enjoy those. Did the kid-and he certainly looked like an eighth-grader in a flight suit-have a cast-iron stomach or a death wish?


While the Exec gathered his flight, and started his alert stint, Guru called up the members of his own flight, and told them to go ahead and get lunch when the Officer's Mess opened back up at 1100. For if the siren sounded, and they did have to scramble, he wanted everyone to have eaten already. While waiting, he finished attacking his paperwork. The CO was finished just after 1100 when there was a knock on his door. “Yeah? Come on in and show yourself!”

The door opened and it was Goalie, with two plastic bags in one hand, and a carrier with drinks in the other. “Beware Romulans bearing gifts.”

“You said it yourself: you're not much of a Trekkie,” Guru said. “What's for lunch?”

“Bison burgers,” she replied. “With fries and lemonade.”

“Good. Let's eat,” said Guru. “Because we relieve Mark's people in less than an hour.”

Over lunch, they discussed squadron-related matters, including those who had already taken their turn on alert. “Any word on how Frank's element did?” Goalie asked.

“No, and I'm tempted to find out,” Guru said, in between bites. Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself!”

1st Lt. Brian Slater, Frank's GIB, came in. “Major,” he said, sketching a salute.

“Brian,” Guru said. “Anything wrong?” Anything dealing with Major Frank Carson, in his view, warranted serious attention.

“No, Major, everything's fine,” Slater replied. Though using Guru's rank while talking indicated how serious the subject was.

“How was the alert stint?”

“Fine, no problems, and he was busy writing a letter, and reading a couple,” Slater said. “Don't know who he was writing to.”

Goalie scowled. “Probably a letter to his dad, who'll then show it to Teddy Kennedy, complaining how a son of Boston is being treated by these....peasants in the Air Force.”

“No doubt,” Guru sighed. “Have you talked to him?”

You mean confronted him?” Slater asked. Seeing the CO nod, he said, “No, not yet.”

“Talk to him politely. Do it at lunch,” said Guru. “Remind him that he's not the only one who pays the price if he fucks up.”

“Will do,” Slater nodded. “And if he doesn't listen, I can confront him more forcefully.”

Smart guy, Guru thought. “Something like that.”

“I'll do that, Major.”

“Good. You have a good lunch, and good luck talking to Frank.”

“Thanks, Major,” Slater said. “I may need it.”

“You just might,” Guru replied.

After he left, Goalie looked at her pilot and lover. “Now, what's going to happen if he does confront Frank, and gets physical? You know, the old movie line of shoving Frank against the wall and saying 'What the hell are you doing?'”

Guru nodded. “Like I said: any write-ups Frank sends me get fed to the shredder.”

“Think Frank will wise up?”

“That, I doubt.”


The clock ticked on, and soon, it was 1145. “Getting close,” Goalie said.

“It is,” Guru noted. “Okay, pass the word to our flight. Time to gear up. Meet outside and we'll do a preflight of the alert birds.”

“And for you and Kara, you two stay geared up because of your, uh, 'check ride' with the gentlepersons of the press.” Though she respected the reporter and crew, Goalie's voice gave some contempt for the media as a whole.

“It'll be fun,” Guru grinned as he got up. “Just bring your camera, and Kara's camcorder, and you'll see the reporter at least stagger out of Kara's bird, looking for somewhere to puke.”

“Half the squadron's going to be waiting,” Goalie pointed out.

“More the merrier.”


Guru went to the Men's Locker Room to gear up. He was joined by the other male members of his flight, and when they came out, the women were waiting. They then went outside and found the four alert birds, locked and cocked. All four were new birds from Japan, The Ops Officer was there, waiting, as he had been there for the others doing alert. “Don,” Guru said.

“Boss,” Van Loan replied. “I see you're here to preflight.” It wasn't a question.

“Right you are,” the CO said. “So who gets what if the horn sounds?”

“You get the first on the left, then Kara, Sweaty, and Hoser, going down the line.”

Nodding, Guru went to “his” bird, 86-1476, and both he and Goalie did a preflight walk-around, then they mounted the aircraft, to make sure all the cockpit switches were set. That done, they got out, and with the rest of the flight, went back inside to the Main Briefing Room, where the alert crews sat. The Exec's flight was there, waiting. “Mark,” Guru said. “It's a couple of minutes early, but we're here to relieve you.”

“Then we stand relieved,” the Exec replied as he and his people got up. “How's lunch?”

“Bison burgers are an option.”

“Sounds good,” Ellis said as his flight left.

“Anything I should know?” Guru asked.

The XO shook his head. “Nada.”

With that, the CO's flight sat down and found ways to kill time. Guru had brought a paperback book, as did Goalie, while Kara sat down to play solitaire. Brainiac took a nap, while Hoser and KT attacked crossword puzzles, and Preacher had a Walkman. “Two hours of this,” Goalie said as she looked up from her book.

“Whatcha reading?” Sweaty asked. She was going through the Sears Christmas Catalog, doing her shopping.

Splinter of the Mind's Eye, by Alan Dean Foster,” Goalie replied. “Star Wars, set between the original movie and Empire Strikes Back.”

Guru looked up from the book he was reading: The First and the Last by Adolf Galland. “I'd like to see more of that. Stuff set between the movies, before, or after.”

“Well, maybe after this war's over, Lucas'll get off his ass and do some more-or let authors do some writing.”

“Here's hoping. I'd love to see how they found out Boba Fett had delivered Han to Jabba's Palace, for one. And how did Vader find out not only that Luke was his son, but also took down the Death Star?”

Sweaty nodded agreement. “Good questions,” she said. “Maybe we'll find out in a few years.”

“If we all live that long,” Kara added.


While they were sitting alert, various people came in to talk to Guru about squadron business, and the same for Goalie and Kara, for they were Senior WSO and Deputy Ops Officer, respectively. Don Van Loan came in about 1330, and said to Guru, “Boss, your flight's regular birds are out of maintenance. How do you want 512 and 520 for the, uh, media's 'check rides'?

“Kara?” Guru asked. “What do you think?”

Kara thought for a moment. “No Sparrows, since they don't know how to work the radar controls,” his wingmate replied.

“I'll go along with that. How about four Sidewinders, full gun, and a centerline tank?”

“Works for me,” Kara said.

“All right, Don, tell Kerry Collins and get 512 and 520 set up,” Guru told the Ops Officer.

“Done,” Van Loan said. “When do you want Ms. Wendt and Mr. Scott?”

“1400 on the dot,” Guru said firmly. “Have 'em waiting outside the respective locker rooms. We'll get them geared up-and brief outside. No time for a leisurely brief, unlike a peacetime incentive ride.”

“On my way,” Van Loan replied. He headed out to inform the Ordnance Officer, and the two newsies.

The clock wound on, and it wasn't long until Van Loan and his flight came in, a few minutes early. “Don, you're early,” Guru said. The wall clock said 1355.

“Birds are checked out, you and Kara have an upcoming engagement, and you guys need to get ready for that,” Van Loan replied. “Kerry says your birds are ready to go.”

Guru nodded. “Thanks, Don. Then I stand relieved.”

“Too bad we're stuck here, otherwise I'd love to see you guys when you get back.”

“Kara, have Sweaty get your camcorder. We'll want this for the reunion.”

“Again, if we live that long,” Kara replied dryly. She nodded at Sweaty, who headed out-along with Goalie, who went after her personal camera.

Nodding, Guru and Kara then left the briefing room, and went to the locker rooms. They found Ms. Wendt and Mr. Scott waiting, in generic flight suits with no nametag. “You two sure you want to go through with this?” Guru asked the both of them as Lieutenant Patti Brown, the PAO, arrived with an airman carrying the squadron's camcorder.

“Wouldn't miss this for the world,” Ms. Wendt said.

“I've been in choppers, but never in a fighter,” Scott added. “Make an interesting comparison.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Then let's get you two geared up.”

They went into the respective locker rooms, where the newsies were fitted with harnesses, G-Suits, and helmets. Then they went outside, where Guru and Kara gave a brief rundown on SAR procedures, and on how to use the PRC-90 survival radio. It was then time to walk to the aircraft, and when they got there, there was quite a crowd, for word had gone around. AF, Navy, Marine, and RAF aircrew were gathered around, waiting. And among them was Colonel Brady. “Major,” Brady said. “Just wanted to see how this starts.”

“Well, sir,” Guru replied. “Not much at the start, but when we get back...” He looked at the two civilians. “Seeing how they handle turning and burning, that's going to be worth seeing.”

“No doubt, Major,” Brady grinned. “Now get airborne.”

“Yes, sir!”

Guru and Mr. Scott went to 512, and Scott showed the CO a Sony 8-mm camcorder, small enough to hold in one hand, and able to fit in the cockpit. Guru nodded approval, and Kara came over, for Ms. Wendt had a similar camera. Seeing the CO approve, she went back to 520.

Guru then did the preflight walk-around, and Scott shot some footage, then it was time to mount the aircraft. After Mr. Scott got in, he got his helmet on, then both the CO and Sergeant Crowley, the CC, helped him get strapped in. “Okay, Mr. Scott. Don't touch anything, hang on, and you'll be fine. Now, if we have to bail out, I'll say 'Eject, eject, eject.' You've got a handle on either side of the seat, and the face curtain. Understood?”

“Understood,” Scott replied.

“Major?” Sergeant Crowley said. “Captain Thrace wants you over at 520.”

“On my way,” Guru said. He walked over, and found Kara helping Ms. Wendt get strapped in. “All set?”

“Just about,” Kara said. “Ready, Ms. Wendt?”

“Ready, but what if we have to eject?” The reporter asked.

“I'll say 'Eject, eject, eject,” said Kara. “You know the ejection handles or the face curtain. Pull either one and out you go.”

The reporter looked at Guru, then Kara. “Do I say 'roger,' or 'will do', or what?”

“If that happens, you'll be talking to yourself,” Kara grinned, and she saw the CO do the same. “Because I'll be gone.” Then she helped Ms. Wendt close the canopy.

“She will be,” Guru said, grinning himself. “Kara? We're Corvette Lead and Zero-two, respectively. Meet at ten grand overhead.”

“As usual,” Kara replied as she got into her own seat. “See you up there.”

Guru nodded, then went back to 512, noting that the crowd had gone back, clear of the ramp. He saw that the CC had helped Mr. Scott close and lock the rear canopy. Then he climbed into his own aircraft, put on his helmet, and went through the preflight. When Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start engines” signal, he started one, then the other, J-79 engines. When the warm-up was complete, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead with two, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Corvette Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-five-Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you are number one in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Corvette Lead rolling.” He gave a thumbs-up to Crowley, who gave the “Taxi” signal. Guru gave him another, and the CC signaled to the ground crew, who pulled away the wheel chocks. The CO then taxied out of the revetment, and as usual, Crowley snapped a salute. Guru returned it, then he taxied to the runway, with 520 right behind. They got to the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties.

“What's their job?” Mr. Scott asked.

“They take care of the weapon safeties,” Guru said. “Those Sidewinders? They're now live.” Then he called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Corvette Lead, Tower,” the controller replied. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-seven-one for five.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru taxied onto the runway, and Kara followed in 520. He did a quick cockpit check, and glanced over to 520, where Kara gave a thumbs-up, and the reporters did the same. “Ready?” He asked Scott.

“Whenever you are, Major,” Scott replied. He was bracing for the takeoff.

“All right,” Guru said. Then he called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

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

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said. He closed and locked his own canopy, and saw that Kara had done the same. “All set back there?” He asked Scott one last time.

“Ready,” Scott said.

Guru then looked over at 520, where all was ready. Kara gave another thumbs-up to show she was ready to go. “Then let's go.” He firewalled the throttles, released the brakes, then 520 thundered down the runway and into the air, with 520 right alongside. They met up at FL 100, just beneath the cloud deck, then headed west for the old Scud Box.
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Old USMC Adage
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