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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know, Major.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He on track of some more LGB kits?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Happy thought,” said Goalie. “Not.”

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

“To be hoped for,” Ellis said.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“You did. Very sobering indeed.”

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

“I'll be there,” said Gledhill.

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

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

“And here?” Guru wanted to know.

The reporter shrugged. “Tonight or tomorrow.”

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

“The 'Wild Thing'?” Ms Wendt asked.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where's this?” Gledhill asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brainiac nodded. “Any Weasels?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Always,” Golen said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Will do.”

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

“You too.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Dave?” Guru asked his RAF counterpart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Time to go,” Goalie replied.

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

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

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



Over Central Texas: 0740 Hours Central War Time:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Forty-five,” Goalie replied.

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

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

“Roger, Crystal Palace. Say Bogey Dope?”

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

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

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

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

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

“And the Libyans.”


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Copy.”


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mustang Lead, roger.”

“Thirty seconds to turn,” Goalie called.

“Call it,” said Guru.

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

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

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

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

“Hope he hasn't picked us up.”

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

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

“Copy both.”

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

“How far to Olin?” Guru asked.

“One minute,” Goalie said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whew,” Guru said. “Time to turn?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All set back here,” Goalie said.

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

“There's a few good ones.”

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

“Enough,” was KT's reply.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Or not enough,” said Goalie.

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

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

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

“As in sky-high,” Goalie added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brainiac added, “Part of it.”

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

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

“Same with the Truck Park,” Hoser said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Unfortunately,” Kara spat.

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

“Busy day,” Napier observed.

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, sir.”

“How's the RAF detachment doing?”

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

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

“Yes, sir,” Guru replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“General-” Guru said.

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

“Yes, sir.”

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

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

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

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

“Got you,” Goalie said.

“I'll do my best,” Gledhill nodded.

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

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

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


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

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

“Any chutes?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They were waiting for you,” Goalie said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A Quaker Cannon?” Goalie asked.

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

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

“The town?” Guru wanted to know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So how do we do this?” Goalie asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Boss?”

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

“Got you.”

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

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

“We'll be there.”

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

Gledhill nodded. “Understood,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, sir,” Guru said.

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

“What is it?”

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

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

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

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

“Yes, sir,” Kara said.

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

“Sir, would thirty minutes be good enough?”

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

“Thank you, sir.” Guru replied.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about us?” Sweaty asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good question,” Guru said. “Sin?”

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

“That answers that,” Napier said.

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

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

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

“Hornets are Warlord,” Pritchett added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All we can do, Colonel,” said Guru.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let's go,” Goalie said.

“Here we go,” said Guru. He applied full power, released the brakes, and 512 rumbled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right with him. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, then came Dave Golen and Flossy, with the RAF F-4Js bringing up the rear. The Marine Hornets followed the RAF, and all aircraft met up at FL 100. Then Guru flashed his formation lights, and the strike force headed south for the tankers.
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  #486  
Old 04-25-2019, 08:01 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Going after the flak trap, and Libyan MiG-23s come to the party:



Over Central Texas: 1035 Hours Central War Time:



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Say again?”

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

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

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

“Roger, Crystal Palace. Say bogey dope?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do it.”


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie advised.

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

“Where'd they come from?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Let's go,” Goalie said.

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



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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

“Two, no, make that three.”

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


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

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


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

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

“Nothing yet.”


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

“Yes, Comrade Major.”


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tigers invited?” Paul Jackson asked.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sweaty's got one,” Goalie said.

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

“Right with you,” Kara replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Four has a kill,” Hoser added.

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

“Seven and eight following,” Jackson added.

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

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

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

“One minute ten,” was Goalie's reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That we will,” Guru said.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“It will.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Saw two or three secondaries,” Goalie nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Both of 'em?” Sweaty asked Guru.

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

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

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

“It does,” Sweaty added.

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

“That we do,” Kara said.

Gledhill nodded. “And those East Germans?”

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

“In no particular order,” Preacher added.

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

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

“Let's go,” Guru said.

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

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

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

“So they're that bad?” Razor asked.

“Worse.”

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

Old USMC Adage
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