A LOMAC Mission Report: The Tkvarcheli Train Robbery Page 2

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After dinner we studied the mission plan. The 433 Squadron of the Canadians is now here, based south of us at Gudauta with their Hornet fighters, CF-18s with Sparrows and Sidewinders. Tomorrow, they will provide a Combat Air Patrol over the coastal area. The American E-3, Overlord, and its F-15 escort will be nearby to guide us and provide datalink to our Ts100 flight computers. We will ingress through the Caucasus mountain range, valleys and gorges varied and high, to shield us from enemy GCI and Turkish fighters. The FSB believes that F-16 fighters have been moved into the battle area, since the F-4 and F-5 fighters have fallen before us in such numbers. The mullahs want a victory to claim that Allah is behind this unjust war. They are wrong. Their Allah will not help them in this evil. We will show them this.

Mornings in Sochi always begin early. I awake at 0545 and breakfast simply on a bit of black bread and strong, hot coffee. I have a date with the Armourer. Vasily and I will spread our wings and fly at high noon to confront the enemy, just like in your American westerns. The Canadians are on GAI alert south of us.

"(We will...) fly at high noon to confront the enemy, just like in your American westerns."The MiG-29 does not have the stores capability of the Su-27, or your excellent A-10, or even our Rook, the Su-25. We have seven hard-points, and one of these is dedicated to extra fuel. The MiG has… you would say, “short legs,” da? It cannot fly far. The 1500 litre auxiliary fuel tank is mounted on mid-line, between the engines. It is needed greatly, particularly if we must fight with the Turkish F-16s. To this end, I am concerned about the air-to-air battle. I know that we have a mission, but if we are killed by the Turk’s AMRAAM, we will fail. We must survive to get to target, da? So, I order the unified container of small loads, the KMGU-2 dispenser, four of them for Vasily. He also will carry two R-73 for self-defense.

I will be his protector, as I have better air-to-air training. I choose a mixed loadout. For the main mission, two ODAB-500PM fuel-air explosive bombs. They are parachute-retarded, and I can choose to fly in low and fast, or release farther out depending on the tactical situation. I will also carry one unguided 280mm rocket, the S-24. For defending Vasily, and myself, I carry two R-73 and one R-27R1, on the left pylon. It is my insurance. I do not trust IR guided weapons alone, for they can be countered all too easily, as I learned in Ethiopia. For highest kill probability, one should release an IR missile, then a semi-active radar missile, for when one maneuvers to defeat your radar lock he will expose himself. If he fails to counter the radar missile, you will kill him that way. It maximizes your chance to win.

Ten waypoints will guide us to target and return. Five is the rail siding. Four, the initial point.

As I patiently supervise the draw of my R-27R1 from stores, Vasily comes to pick me up. It is time to see the meteorologist for our weather report, over tall glasses of tea and slices of cucumber. He is happy to see us as always, and welcomes us into his office. The Venetian blinds are pulled up to let in the morning sun, and it is clear that not a cloud is in the sky!

“Today, the weather will be gorgeous for your flight! No turbulence near your target, negligible winds, and temperatures of 20 degrees at ground level, colder in the mountains.”

This actually gets a smile from Vasily, as he lounges in his accustomed corner.

“At least we will not be bouncing like rubber balls on this trip!”

“Indeed, Vasily. But be careful of turbulence in the mountain passes, for a front is pushing south and the target and we are behind it.”

“Will the skies be as clear as I see them now?”

“There will be no cloud cover, so IR missiles should be at their highest effectiveness, but the sun may prove problematic for their employment. What wind there is will be from the north.”

I nod at this information.

“It will help with our fuel consumption, a good thing, I think.”

At this, the enlisted driver pulls up to the door in the GAZ jeep and toots the horn. Its canvas top is off to celebrate the beautiful day and we pile in over its sides, cramming in over our flight bags stuffed with gear. The MiGs, glorious in their grey-green camouflage, await us at the flightline with APUs humming. Kulikov, smiling, awaits and we do our walk-through. I pull on the R-27 and R-73s, and peer at the bombs and rocket in their mountings. Kulikov shakes his head in mock severity at this apparent distrust as I mount the ladder.

"How can I disappoint these fine sons of the Rodina with failure? For them, I will succeed!"“Please, Leitenant, bring my 52 Yellow back in one piece! In Sevastopol, my heart nearly stopped at that zero-zero landing!”

I settle into my K-36DM ejection seat and Kulikov helps me strap in. His team scurries around the MiG, pulling chocks and completing last minute checks. My heart swells with pride as I punch the inertial starter and the Klimov RD-33 motors whine to life one by one. How can I disappoint these fine sons of the Rodina with failure? For them, I will succeed!

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