A Lock On: Modern Air Combat Mission Report
The Commander set his jaw in a hard, unyelding line as he looked out into the overcast sky and forced himself to show no emotion, unlike the young lieutenant who slumped in one of the overstuffed chairs before his desk, squeezing a tumbleer of clear Vodka in his big hands. I knew I sent them to their deaths, this day. It was my duty, and theirs.
It does nothing to still the pain of her loss.
“Vasily. Tell the story once again. I must know all.”
The other man, a tall, handsome, dark-haired pilot, was stricken with grief.
“It is my fault, Commander. She is lost, because I was too slow, I…”
The Commander turned away from the window, steel in his cold blue eyes.
“Now is not the time for grief, Vasily. I must know how Sacha was lost! More of our comrades may be threatened. And I must know where she is now. Begin again.”
Vasily swallowed hard, and took a deep breath. Sacha had reported in, breathlessly, from a flight with the American F-15 squadron.
“Vasily, come! We must see the Commander right now, it is urgent. Muqtadeh, he has a Cube battery setting up at Sukhumi base!”
They had raced into his office, pulled him away from a meeting with the Americans, Colonel Martin and Major Kelly, chattering at him in excited Russian, until he held up his hands and called
“Peace, my little eagles! Tell me all.”
It is to much to bear! Now, the Sheikh has got his hands on the 3M9M missile battery, as I have told you. It is our version of the HAWK system, and lethal. In convoy on the road from Tkvarcheli, Troy and I saw it. It locked me repeatedly as we fought two ex-Iraqi MiG-29 fighters in the sky over Sukhumi. It painted us as far north as Gudauta, and we could pick it up on the excellent American TEWS all the way into Sochi. It is a threat we cannot ignore.
As soon as I landed, I taxied to the main terminal at Adler airfield and frantically waved for the GAZ jeep by the flightline. Vasily had been lounging in the ready room, on charge-of-quarters duty manning the section’s phones when I hurried into the room. He jumped up and shouted a congratualtions across the room for my MiG kills.
“And so you add two more MiGs to your tally, eh, Sacha? It is Ethiopia all over again, but without the Cranes to fly!”
“Vasily, we have no time for this! Come! We must see the Commander right now, it is urgent. Muqtadeh, he has a Cube battery setting up at Sukhumi base!”
The congratulations died on his lips, and he assumed a more serious look.
“And you wish to be the one to kill it, I see. You will get us killed one day, Sacha, you are impetuous…”
“Peace! Come, hurry!” I had no time for this.