At seven miles from steerpoint 3 things do indeed go worse and the SA-5 site locks up and launches on me. Well, maybe NOE is not such a bad way to travel, and down in the weeds I go. I successfully evade, as does my wingman, and we carry on. We crest a ridge line and I catch a glimpse of the target area as we come up on the IP.
It turns out we did an OK job of picking an ingress route, lots of mountains to hide behind.
I reach the IP and swing right for my bomb approach. I give my wingman the OK to attack target and quickly select the AG mode. I had earlier setup the bomb release details, CCIP mode, single bombs, ripple of six pulses, 750 feet spacing. I commit to the run just as the AAA radar settles on me again. We’ve got a good approach going, I hold my thumb over the pickle button and then…I notice the 250 foot spacing I have selected. Aw nuts, another problem! Too late now, and I release the bombs all in same area. As I pass quickly over the base, I half expect to see some Blackjacks and Hips parked here and there since we placed squadrons at Maribor, but they are nowhere to be seen. I have no idea why.
I immediately jink left and directly over the AAA guns. Seems they chose wisely when deciding where to form up. Small angry white and gray puffs are all around me and the sound of exploding shells to go with. I pull hard G’s to make things a little more difficult on them. Just then, my partner, Cowboy12 streaks in over the runway and does a much better job of bomb release.
Beautiful! I’m grinning from ear to ear as my AI guy does it right. He also pulls hard to the left and successfully evades the flak that is all around us. Only flak though, the SA-5 site does not fire on us or even lock us up. I have no idea why. I don’t think about it too much, because just then Falcon11 comes roaring in at low level to take out the radar. He does it well.
We turn for home, satisfied with a job well done, but also puzzled at what happened to Falcon12. The loss of a comrade always hurts, especially if there’s no apparent explanation. I look forward to the debriefing for an answer. However, the problems are not over.
I become aware that Falcon11 has taken flak damage and is smoking badly. Marlboro Country strikes again. He manages to limp home, about 20 miles behind me. As I close on the field, I ask the ATC lady for landing clearance, which she grants. A minute later, Falcon11 declares an emergency. Well, this should be interesting, I thought, given the changes that the F4:AF team has done to the ATC. I get further turn and altitude instructions, then am abruptly told to enter a holding pattern, at 3,000 foot altitude. She clears Falcon11 ahead of me and my wingman and I fly a pattern North of the base.