Vasily is thoughtful, and sure-handed. But the “Kub,” our word for “Cube,” the code name for the feared 3M9M system, is setting up even now, and the weather is turning against us. I can see clouds sweeping in from the horizon already. I hope for a quick plan, for we cannot allow the IRLF to have such a potent weapon at its disposal.
The Commander was in a staff meeting with the Americans. We convinced his aide that our news could not wait; a strong IRLF with more SAMs at its disposal is too terrible to consider. We had to stomp it out, like the bug — and quickly! Breathlessly, I told our Commander of the fight over Sukhumi, and of the SAM battery’s presence. It is protected by another of the hated Shilka guns. The Commander stood at his large oaken desk, and picked up his telephone, ordering the flight line to prepare two MiG fighters, my 52 Yellow and Vasily’s 54 Blue immediately. He nodded, sagely, then unrolled a tactical map on the desk.
“The Kub system takes some time, at least, to prepare. The Sheikh’s men will not expect our attack to come so soon. I agree, Sacha. We must strike now, while they are still preparing. Vasily, you are our ground-strike specialist. What are your thoughts?”
“How long to have a reconnaissance done, sir? Photos would be invaluable.”
The Commander smiled broadly.
“And this is what I was discussing with our American friends when you came bursting in, my little falcons. I know of the Kub system, you see. The GRU has warned us that Muqtadeh is planning something like this. Colonel Martin has arranged for the American CIA to help us. A Predator flies over Sukhumi even now, and we have real-time photos of Sukhumi base. But we must strike now. We cannot wait.”
He sat and poured three tumblers of Vodka.
“Now, Sacha, Vasily. This mission will be your most dangerous yet. The MiG-29 9-12 has no jammers, no anti-radar missiles. But if you fly low, you can fly under the Kub system’s minimum ceiling. One of you can act as a decoy, as the other goes for the jugular. The attacking falcon, however, exposes himself to the Shilka gun. You must decide who will take the risk.”
“Can the Su-25s help us in this, sir?” Vasily is ever pragmatic. The Rook carries the Kh-25MP missile, which can strike enemy radars from afar.
“No, Vasily. We have not the time to prepare the Georgians for this, and our own Su-25 section is not yet airworthy. And the Americans have no antiradar missiles.”
The Commander lit a strong Turkish cigarette.
“And the British Tornadoes patrol in the air today, Combat Air Patrol over the Black Sea. They are the only ones that carry the ALARM. It will take longer than we have to call them in and prepare them and their crews for this mission. The planning began, Sacha, while you and Captain Barker were returning from Sukhumi. Our intelligence tells us that the IRLF has no more aircraft for now, and we must not allow them to obtain any under SAM cover.”
Vasily nodded. “Then we must depend on our superior agility. Cluster weapons for the flight lead, and rockets for both of us.”
I considered. “I will go after the radar?”
“Da. I will draw their fire, Sacha, and you bomb it well. Do this in a single pass, if you can. If we must finish the site with rockets we can, but it will open us to the Shilka that guards the base.”
I trust Vasily in this. It was already near time to fly.