by Guest Writer Eric “EricJ” Johnson
Before we Begin
Okay the following story is of course fictional, as always. It should be noted that while some of the locations are real, the events of course are not. While in some ways this may be a controversial story, but realize it Is just fiction, not reality and probably never will be, but that is okay, it’s a story and that’s how it will be. I’d like to start and thank Ken “531 Ghost” King on procedures, as well I’ve never put a foot on a carrier, and more than likely never will. And to Razvan Stanciu for the mansion I blew up in the story.
The following were used to create the story:
- Third Wire Strike Fighters
- PFunk’s Black Sea Terrain with Stary’s Germany tiles
- F/A-18F Super Hornet
- Terminator 2000 F-4
- ODS Mod CVN-71
Well Comrades, these are how you say, strange times? Yes I believe that is the expression Americans use these days, or any day for that matter. Following my abysmal tryout in the F-111 simulator, I was taken to the US Naval School in NAS Miramar, where I learned about the Super Hornet. Compared to the now retired Su-33M2, it is an electronic marvel. The radar is unbelievable, easily outmatching my old N-001 radar, and of course it is a smaller aircraft. With the retirement of the F-14 Tomcat, the US Navy has decided to purchase this aircraft for its naval aviation forces. However, compared to the Su-33M2, where I could fly from where I am at to Moscow, and still have fuel to fly to Alaska, the long way. However, naval aviation these days is limited by the smaller wars that are fought today. With the war in Iran and the Afghanistan conflict winding down, there is no more need for long range interceptors that can intercept our Bears that shadow American forces still. While we have been graced with intense cooperation with the Americans, still we remain wary. As the conflict in Georgia has shown, we need to watch our allies as much as our enemies.
Speaking of enemies, the Iranians I heard got in an aerial battle with American forces in the Persian Gulf. Serves those pigs to get shot down, and even Sacha is alive! Yes she flew one of my old aircraft onto the deck of an American carrier. It is now returned safely to Moscow, American Intelligence already knew about it, and with it repainted in Naval Aviation colors again, the 279 KIAP, it may never be forgotten. I have loved the splinter pattern that was applied to my aircraft, that has many layers to come off before it gets lighter again. However, I had heard that one of my former ground crew had forgotten a very important piece in the ejection seat. I had contacted Gennedy about this, and he assured me the situation was going to be taken care of. He even sent me a bottle of vodka for his apologies. Yes I soon forgot about the whole situation, of course with some help of that vodka!
I have since left Captain Eckmann, who I flew that simulator mission with. He has gone to how they say, “greener pastures.” I am now part of “VFA-213, The Famous Black Lions” which is currently stationed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This squadron has been at the forefront of US Naval Aviation by being one of the first squadrons to field the APG-79 AESA radar system, that is now showing up on newer versions of the zhuravlik, or “Crane”, or the Flanker as you still call it. I have done some training with them, and being the natural pilot, I pilot the F/A-18F “Super Hornet” aircraft. I have now also a companion, Lt. Deon “Spence” Spencer, from California. I have met him there, and he so far is a pretty good Weapons System Operator. I have chafed at this, but Colonel Martin has assured me that Lt. Spencer is a good soul. Of course, I have noticed that Lt. Spencer has studied me, asking only questions that matter from my prior experience with the war with the Muqtadeh and its Turk allies. We now patrol the area, with the restrictions still on us about sailing to the Black Sea. Oh how I wish to be back in Mother Russia sometimes. I have enjoyed the United States, but the Rodina calls to me occasionally.
We have returned from a refueling mission, where we refuel other aircraft with our aircraft. It is most curious how a strike fighter can be transformed into an airborne refueller with store attachments. Of course the Crane I used to fly could also do this, but it did not require external tanks in order to accomplish the mission. However, the aircraft handles well despite the heavy load and therefore I do not mind. After you fly the Su-33M2, anything lighter is easier to fly. However, I do miss the simplicity of the aircraft versus this one. The Super Hornet requires a college course in order to just take off! I am learning, and improving my skill at landing the aircraft. Since they are graded, I have to admit I am not in the running for best trapper, but I am better than some I have seen, so I am not too concerned. Most wonder how a combat veteran cannot trap so easily, especially in this aircraft, but when you are in a Su-33, you do not care so much, you care about landing!
We both sat eating silently in the cafeteria, the rumbling of jets overhead overpowering the sound of the floating that the USS Theodore Roosevelt is. It is not so bad, but then again patrolling duty does require constant operations, especially with the Turk nearby, we still need to be vigilant, regardless of what goes on in this region. It was solemn between the both of us. Refuelling duty is grunt’s work, and my skills need to be used elsewhere, but it is a major function of the squadron, and I am sure that Colonel Martin has kept me in “hiding”, ready for me to execute whatever mission he requires of me.
Which is how this story started of course comrades, I was sitting there, eating with “Spence” and a young, attractive female walked up, enlisted I could tell, and she was carrying, a slip of paper. I had the foreboding feeling that it was time to be more than a glorified aerial gas station. Has Major Grachev finally come aboard? The fears and excitement entered my body as she eyed me, more out of professional than personal interest, and made her way to where I was seated. She handed me the note, nodded, and walked away. I rolled my eyes at this, as I knew what it meant, a briefing was about to take place. Deon looked at me quizzically, perhaps he wasn’t a spy from Colonel Martin, or he was surprised as I was, as I looked at the note:
“Be at the Squadron Briefing Room at 2030 Local.”
I smiled, it was time to go to war again, as I finished my meal, my mind going over what is to possibly happen in the near future.
“Love note from your new girlfriend?” Deon asked, a mocking tone in his voice.
I only flirted with the female complement on the ship. American women… were much different than Russian women. Russian women were more down to earth than their American counterparts, but if you need to enjoy the company of them… I am drifting.
“No, we have a briefing at 2030 local, at the Squadron Briefing Room, you and I. I do not know what is about, but hopefully it will be better than fueling aircraft in the sky.” I folded the piece of paper, and tucked it in my jacket I bought on the ship. It fit me nicely and was quite warm in the cool night air. I inwardly rolled my eyes.
“Oh really? something I should be aware of that I don’t know?”
“Only that we need to be there at 2030 local friend, then we shall find out.” I said as I picked up my tray, and threw the trash away, setting the cleaned off tray on top of the others.
Lt. Spencer nodded in confused acknowledgement. I do not know why I am not back in the 503rd, though I wish I was. My aircraft has been transferred to line units and therefore not needed by me, at least not yet. Though I heard Major Grachev is going to try and procure the old Su-35 prototypes from Sukhoi so that we may use those in order for the 279th to still perform their mission. Lt. Spencer only read about the actions that we may have performed. I have done a word search myself on the Internet, but not many stories on what our actions did. Despite the numerous photographs that were taken of our aircraft, not much is known publicly of our actions, but they know we contributed due to the frequency of our takeoffs. Even “Wikipedia” did not have much information, or at least the people writing the page did not.
There were numerous COD (Carrier On Delivery) planes that landed on the ship, delivering necessary supplies, and in this case, personnel. I had not heard from Major Grachev in a long time. Then again Colonel Martin “buried” me in this unit just to keep some eyes averted, but apparently the old Major has found me yet again. Though I hear through rumors he is to be a Colonel, we shall see. We both finished our sparse meal. I had an hour to be in the room, the last flight taxing, though boring. Perhaps a little more excitement in this mission than the last one? Lt. Spencer excused himself, as he had things to do. We do work together quite well, but we also need some personal time, if not limited by patrols and the like. But we manage, and I chose to spend some time on the outer walkway, smoking a cigarette, listening to the activity above me, as planes and personnel moved in a concerted fashion that only a madman could understand. I did not experience this much activity even on the Kuznetsov at “full war pace” our squadron used to call it. Even doing FOD walks was something new to me, no matter how many times I did it. Pilots were not supposed to, but the US Navy made sure even the pilots made sure that their floating airfield was safe. To this I agree, I do not want to taxi and have a bolt destroy my plane… it would be most annoying!
I merely stood there, slowly smoking as I watched the sea churn from the massive shape that the carrier was. Another combat air patrol mission left as I heard the afterburners even down here, the roar almost deafening as the aircraft carrier shuddered in it unleashing its power to throw a plane a fraction of its weight off the deck and into the night air. It was peaceful as the aircraft, another Super Hornet banked and climbed out into the sky, the afterburners glowing as it rapidly accelerated away. It was much busier than the Kuznetsov, with the necessity of clearing the skies around the carrier in constant vigil against any Turk intrusion. Which by far they have remained peaceful, and under constant vigilance by the United Nations in keeping their war aims in check. Perhaps this meeting tonight will change that. It has been quiet, and the United States, along with the alliance with Russia in keeping them in their own country. Georgia so far remains pacified, but the future holds its own cards as far as what they will do next. Another Super Hornet took off, following its lead aircraft into another rotation. A fueller aircraft took off earlier, I remember the schedule, so we were not expected to fly for some time.
I looked at my watch, and I had about twenty minutes to go, so I decided to make my way to the Squadron Briefing room. You must account for some distance when you are on a ship of this size. Even on a “slow” day you can expect in taking some time in reaching your destination. Besides, being early does not look bad either. I made my way to the Briefing Room, with a few minutes to spare. Even at night the ship is busy, the night shifts of various parts conducting their duties, and the night was still early besides. As I approached the Briefing Room, I noticed two Marine guards standing, with their rifles. Indeed somebody important or just a real secure meeting was to happen. I showed my ID to the Marine, he whispered into a throat mike and nodded, and motioned me to enter. He did not open the door, so I did and stepped inside.
I admit some shock when seeing Colonel Martin on the ship, I had not seen him for awhile, but obviously he came to see me, and Lt. Spencer was already there, he must have left before me, and he does not smoke either. He smiled a thin smile, not like he caught his prey, but more like he was having an internal laugh at me. I will be fine as many have laughed at me, only to be proven wrong.
“So Emenivich, you are still among the living, I was expecting you to be killed by your cigarettes by now.”
He smiled jovially though, he was here to brief me and that is fine. I smiled back, among people I knew for a long time.
I smiled. “Why yes sir, I have to stay alive to show you Yanks how combat is properly done.”
Colonel Martin chuckled and offered his hand, I shook it. “Well I don’t think we’ve been doing too bad lately, now that things have calmed down in the region, though Iran may heat up. Still nothing we can’t handle, but they are testing us daily.”
“Well I hope I can help that by getting some time flying your aircraft and not be a glorified gas clerk.”
He winked at that one, only too true…
“Well I’m sure you’ll get the chance tonight, if you would be seated please.”
Colonel Martin gestured for me to sit down, I sat by Lt. Spencer, and nodded. I was in my business mood. Lt. Spencer himself looked surprised at me knowing what was going on. That is okay, he will be fine. Normally Colonel Martin would jest some more, but his tone reminded me he was my superior, and I was his subordinate. It also reminded me that it was time to get down to business. No rest for the weary I hear some pilots say. I am now 29, but not too weary, least not yet anyways. I have lived so far a quiet life, so I am content with what I do and have done.
Colonel Martin cleared his throat, and started the briefing.
“A week ago, a Russian pilot, Sacha I might add Emenevich, landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and delivered papers regarding a terrorist plot against the United States. We have taken care of some of the perpetrators but a lot remain at large, and we managed to track some of them here.”
He pulled up a screen, and an image of an old man appeared. The photograph showed him at a business meeting, calm and collected as he undertook his task, whatever it was.
“This is Deha Ishmael, a wealthy businessman who has been opposed to the Russian presence in the area since he was a little boy. Some could say he has hated the Russians since he was born, but the spooks, er, CIA doesn’t know anything as of this moment why, he just surfaced a couple days ago. So far they say he’s responsible for a lot of terrorist attacks, particularly the suicide bombing in Georgia last year.”
He paused for a second.
“Right now we have the green light to take him out. Reason being is he’s a bad guy, and there is supposed to be a meeting, as a matter fact going on right now discussing future plans. We have a SEAL team observing the house, and so far have identified three known terrorists, major players in the region as far as everybody is concerned. The joint Russian-US war against Muqtadeh, as well as the constant incidents in Iran, really proved to him in his eyes, that Islam is still under attack. While that is nothing new as of today, it is something to consider.”
“While we could go in and do it the easy way, we’ve already have been able to infiltrate their computers and steal quite a lot of information, or at least that’s what the NSA tells me anyways. Next slide please.”
The mansion appeared on the screen, and looked as if it was taken from a satellite, the sun was up.
“Here’s a reconnaissance photo as of yesterday. There are no defenses that we have noted, and HUMINT confirms that. There is an airfield in Ankara that presents the most credible threat in the region, as well as HAWK batteries. It should be an easy run in, and out. Combat Air Patrols are present, but so far have been F-4 Phantoms, very little F-16 coverage. They do have aircraft on alert due to us being in the area. Next slide please.”
“Here is a theoretical range of the F-4 Phantoms and of course the Vipers. Crew proficiency has been higher due to the war in the region, and they have consistently trained for a possible aerial attack against key facilities, so state of readiness is high, but not daunting. We have plotted a route that has been uploaded into the mission computer of your aircraft Emenevich. Yes we know you like to fly how you want, but computer simulations should allow you to get in, drop your bomb, and get out of there, with minimal fighter interception, and minimal time in-country. The Combat Air Patrols are not numerous, but keep in mind that they are looking for low to high intruders. SAM defenses also are on constant alert, with shifts rotating to keep attackers at bay. Deha is very well known in Turkish military circles, mainly for his anti-US and anti-Russian stance, and since he owns a lot of land, has allowed the Turkish military to train on some of his property. So far the SEAL team reports no military activity, but that could change of course before you fly. Next slide please.”
The slide switched, and showed the launch time, 0330 local, to the estimated time from the carrier’s position. It looked approximately an hour’s flight time, if not less. I quickly estimated I would only need one drop tank for this mission, along with a full fuel load. Even if the Navy required me to have my throttle as far as it was economical, remember the superiors are not flying the mission.
“As you can see, takeoff is 0330 local tomorrow morning, which is why I am trying to keep this briefing short, to allow you to get some shut-eye for the big event. We expect of course Turkish defense posture to be lowered due to the time, but as always play it safe and destroy the target. Any questions?”
“Weapon load sir?”
“You will have one GBU-31V4 JDAM with a BLU-109 warhead for the mansion, with the coordinates of the mansion already loaded in. I was able to pry that with my teeth from the Navy, they don’t like Air Force personnel doing the weaponeering for them. However, I know a very influential Admiral who helped pull some strings to get just that one. The rest I’m sure Alexei you can decide, but you have ten minutes to do it.”
I pulled out my notepad and determined I would need at least one HARM missile, and two AGM-65E Mavericks, for any vehicles that decide to escape. While I know I will not have much time to be on station, particularly for the attack, but if I successfully drop the bomb and turn around, I may get lucky. The special forces team can deal with vehicles, but then again, in the tight mountains I found out, Mavericks could also work against any threats or targets that I may need to engage that the HARM could not. I could only hope that the Colonel will be able to requisition them as well, as stocks are diminishing, mainly from heavy use in Iraq. I would also need self-defense missiles. I would need two AIM-9X missiles, far superior to the my country’s R-73, and also three AIM-120D missiles, just now entering the inventory, and of course the ATFLIR targeting pod for the Mavericks and JDAM. I have thought faster, but I really felt like I was under a timetable now. Lt. Spencer sat there, quiet. He did not know what to do in this situation. He was not used to a special operations mission that involved aircraft. I of course have done my share of special air strikes that he was going to be involved in. Why they gave me a two-seat aircraft I do not know, the E model I would prefer, but since I have no real say sometimes in what I have to do, I must do it with what I have.
“What about support from the carrier?” Lt. Spencer added. I reminded myself that it is a good question.
“VFA-31 will have a scheduled CAP leaving around the same time, so egress will be low level. Looking at the ATO I see you will also have a tanker bird airborne for fuel, I suggest of course take advantage of it.”
He winked at both of us. We knew all too well unfortunately.
“You will also have Hawkeye support for the duration of the flight. The radar covers the area so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting jumped by enemy fighters. They will downlink of course data to your aircraft via the Link-16 system.”
I handed Colonel Martin the request, he nodded his approval, and he ensured that the weapons would be on the pylons. Thankfully there were plenty of people aboard to handle the task, well I did miss Gennedy on the carrier, but one Russian on board was more than enough for even Americans in this day and age. However it did make it good for us to get some sleep, I set my alarm and willed myself to sleep. Lt. Spencer asked a few questions, but overall I could have answered them. We couldn’t discuss the mission of course, but that is okay, I am used to it.
“Before you take off gentlemen, stop by here, and I will tell you whether or not you will still do this mission, the CIA is confident it will be approved, but things as you know, could change while you sleep. Any more questions?”
“Alright, go get some shut-eye and I’ll see you later.”
We both stood up, and saluted, and he returned it, and we smartly left the Briefing room. I was surprised that the CAG was not present, Colonel Martin really wants this kept as secret as possible.
The easy part just begun, the hard part of course would be when I woke up.
And of course I did, groggily to the alarm, which I summarily shut off quickly. I rose slowly. It was habit to do this of course. I have flown many hours in aircraft, piloted by myself and remembered to slowly take in my surroundings before moving, as an errant movement could send your aircraft spiraling out of control if you’re not careful! I saw I had a few minutes so I lay back down, staring at the bunk, listening to the sounds of the carrier as I forced myself up, and went to the “head” as they call it, and relieved myself. I threw some water on my face, and looked at myself. I looked very tired, and was very tired, but I was alive, which is always good. I yawned and made my way to the lockers, where my flight gear was. I opened it, and pulled out first the JHMCS helmet, a very fine piece of technology, easily more advanced than ZSh-7 system on the Su-33M2. I had wondered sometimes why we were still so technologically less advanced than our American counterparts. I had noticed that however, due to lack of money, that we of course can only do so much in these hard times, but I had noticed how long it took to have an advanced warplane in their inventories while we continued to develop more and more lethal systems. It was sad though that our own home forces didn’t have what customer countries had. I am disheartened sometimes when I think of this.
I shook off my meanderings as I checked the helmet for anything that would render it inoperative. Lt. Spencer walked in, said hello and did the same. We were both tired, and would have enough time to talk. It was our ritual. Our minds were going over the mission in our heads, possible failures, and of course success. I ran through my own mental checklist and found out that I was not equipped with a caffeine beverage. I sighed, closed the locker after donning my flightsuit, and found the cafeteria, buying two Cokes for the flight, one for pre-flight, and one for during the flight. I had also bought a couple sandwiches too. I was hungry and something to keep the belly fed was a good idea. I noticed Lt. Spencer didn’t, though I did see him always pack a few candy bars for those times when he needed a snack. The Super Hornet requires less attention sometimes than the Su-33M2, so I have gotten “soft” according to myself, that technology will make me fatter, despite the running I do every day. I made my way to the briefing room, where Colonel Martin himself was awake. He did lead quite well I thought to myself, as he never seemed to be tired, but this time he looked okay, but I figured when you’re very tired and groggy, the same person looks normal to you. I smiled to myself about this and sat down. Lt. Spencer sat beside me, sighed and lolled his head about, as he stretched his neck, getting the blood to flow better. I myself stretched seated, feeling the blood starting to move around my body. I felt a bit better, but I could use more sleep of course!
Colonel Martin looked at us for a second, played with a piece of paper, and merely said. “Game on boys, make it happen.”
We both nodded, stood up slowly, saluted, and walked to the stairs that would take us up to the flight deck. I had always not liked the American carriers, too many moving pieces but it was all safe. You had to pay attention, and we were wide awake once stepping out. The air was cold, and it was not that busy at night. Some planes were moving around, but other than that, it was not busy. We looked at the Alert 5 pilots, canopies closed, but the ladders down. The helmets were slumped on the glass, and we knew how they were occupying their time. Sleep is a commodity for all pilots, as the more rested you are, the sharper you will be. I am sure Lt. Spencer would object to this lack of sleep he is experiencing, but so far he stayed quiet. Perhaps he was nervous? I assumed so but we walked carefully to our aircraft and I went up first, dropping my flight bag in the space I could fit it in, and stepped down. The aircraft was much lower to the ground, so it did not feel right stepping back on the deck, and allowing Lt. Spencer to start going over his routine. The brown shirted sailor stood there, staring at me. They didn’t like the fact I did a visual check while they stood there, but I had told them who outranked whom, and especially since I was staying around the aircraft. And I was a combat veteran for a pilot. Some heated words but they got the point. He would normally start the aircraft, while I performed checks on the ground. I shook each weapon, and noted mildly I had gotten what I asked for. All weapons were secure, and the red-shirted ordnance men, “ordies” as they were called, stood there and watched. They learned the hard way you let the pilot do weapons checks, well a Russian one anyways. Some pilots just took it for granted, I have done this too many times to give up the habit. And from what I hear, my other callsign is “Ivan the Terrible”, it is funny as I smile every time I hear it. They will be okay.
It was only unfair that I did not have Gennedy here to place bets with. It made a possible long mission bearable knowing that you had a chance at vodka. Besides I took his word over most of these people any day. And then for a Combat Air Patrol I had an AMRAAM nearly slide off, after the “ordie” said it was good to go, in his words. Nyet. I trust my hands, not theirs. I must find a way to start the ritual again. Life is so hectic that sometimes you do need to relax, but then again, not on the flight deck. We were all aware of the dangers of losing our cool and a serious accident happen. I nodded to the brown shirt, and climbed up to the cockpit. At this point I relinquished control to him. He checked me and Lt. Spencer’s harnesses, while I began checking safeties, and the other necessary switches. The two GEF414s howled to life as I flipped the switches, following the brown shirt’s signals. After checking the aircraft, the brown shirt had the red shirts swarm over my aircraft, ensuring weapons were ready for my use. It is an annoying process, my team back in Sochi did it far faster, as you all know. The red shirts moved away, and then the brown shirts did a final sweep of my aircraft, unchaining it from the deck. The sea was calm so this time it was good to begin taxi operations without bouncing. The brown shirt nodded to me, and passed me off to a yellow shirt, which got my attention. I followed the yellow shirt’s flashlight cones as I was directed to the catapult. As the yellow shirt guided me, I saw a bunch of green shirts orbiting.
They were watching my aircraft as I positioned it properly on the catapult. I was guided and then stopped. I applied the brakes, and did final checks.
“Spence, you awake?”
“Yeah… a little bit.”
He was tired, perhaps not used to continuous operations like this when your sleep cycle was disturbed like this? I heard him yawn slightly, more through the intercom, which forced me to yawn. I looked at the clock and noticed it was 0323 local. A bit early I thought to myself as the seconds seem to drag on. I looked to my left and saw a VFA-31 Super Hornet throttling up his engines, and after thirty seconds, was rocketed off the deck.
It was our air cover, at least the rotation that was supposed to happen, which is fine. I watched as it sped away, flying straight since we were not doing a simultaneous launch. A lot of what is supposed to happen should happen roughly in a half hour anyways, when we get to the Turkish declared airspace zone. I was snapped out of my reverie by the yellow shirt, who signaled that soon I would be following after the second Super Hornet that took off just after his lead. It however banked to the left just in case and flew to form up. I waited, and tensed, the adrenaline starting to flow. I was shown my aircraft weight by a lighted box that a yellow shirt held up, 52,250 pounds. When I flew the Su-33 this weight would be roughly at half fuel, and no weapons! I acknowledged it and resumed thinking. A catapult launch comrades, is something to experience, I will never forget it that is for sure! I got the signal to start preparing myself for this experience, after so many times it still felt new to me. Upon the signal, I pushed the throttles forward, and heard the afterburners reverberate through the aircraft. A yellow shirt who was clear snapped a smart salute, I stifled a yawn, and then I returned it, and forward I went, into the dark sky.
Upon clearing the deck and after a minute I raised the gear, shut off the lights, and activated the formation lights, since I was still in the vicinity of friendly aircraft. When I flew further out, I would turn them off.
I gently moved the stick, and the aircraft deftly responded, and oriented it towards the first waypoint. The aircraft was very responsive, and did not require as much force as the Su-33M2 did. The fly-by-wire system is very good for fighting aircraft, allowing you to be highly maneuverable. It is reassuring to know that the aircraft can still handle well despite the loads it can carry. I heard a pop behind me, and immediately recognized it as Lt. Spencer opening a soda can. He must have had some in his room as I settled the aircraft. For about thirty minutes we could fly high, allowing maximum fuel conservation before our low level flight. The Super Hornet of course did not have as much fuel but I have had no problems yet. Then again I was on Combat Air Patrols and refueler missions, so that is fine. I will now see how it performs in the role it is designed for.
I will not bore you with the details of the flight to the attack heading I would take, unless you wish to know how my sandwich was. Besides, it is dark out, not much to see nyet?
The MFD that I set up for the moving map display oriented itself, and I banked the aircraft gently in that direction. Cat and mouse game while the Turkish CAP patrolled overhead, while on another MFD I selected the SMS page, so I can now start keeping track of my weapon systems. I am glad that they have all these screens, but in the end made me wish I was flying solo. I think better when some idiot isn’t yelling in my ear. But do not get confused comrades, Lt. Spencer is a fine aviator, but I do not like someone else in the cockpit. Well, a very beautiful Russian, or American girl would be preferable. I selected the compressed RWR display. I depend on my reflexes, not his. I have told him that and continuously request to go to VFA-31, where I can at least shake off the shadow. So far it seems that the CAG is reluctant, and now I remember my drill with the F-111 simulator. Perhaps Colonel Martin is trying to get more crews experienced or he is looking for somebody to watch me, just in case.
“Targets ahead, reduce speed.” Lt. Spencer when flying, was more agreeable than in our down time.
“Roger.” I eased the throttle back slightly, so to give our friends some time to fly ahead of them.
“Have we been detected?”
“Negative, no radars pointing our way.”
Lt. Spencer had the Link-16 display, and he got targeting data from the E-2C orbiting in international waters. “They’re continuing west at this time.” I double checked the RWR display in my cockpit to make sure.
“Good, I am going to fly lower.” Time to be a ghost, and perhaps show another American how Russians can fly, at least one that has gotten more hours than the whole VVS is concerned. Without any warning, I pushed the stick forward slightly, lowering the altitude more. Low enough to slip by, but did not want to create a “rooster tail” as it is called, to make myself visually noticeable.
“Beautiful night out tonight.” Lt. Spencer said offhand.
“Da.” It was but naturally I was more concerned about the Turkish fighters ahead of me. I had made sure that the radar was turned off.
Who knew if they had more advanced electronics? I had considered engaging the aircraft, but if they are left alone, then I will have a higher chance of being left… I am sorry, we will have a higher chance of being left alone from more enemy fighters. I also banked the aircraft to the East, in order to allow them to continue along. Strange the Turkish coast had no Early Warning Radars positioned to affect such an intercept. Perhaps they only turned them on when they knew a major air threat would come, in order to save them from American or Russian anti-radar missiles.
Undisturbed, the Turkish Phantoms continued on their route. Surely another CAP would cover the blind spot?
I had said as I headed east a bit to find a good valley, and finding one, I entered it, heading to the North. Still no radar emissions to engage us as we flew on generally following the waypoint route, still ghosts. Lt. Spencer was moving quite a lot as I made my flight. At this point since I brought up the waypoint route, he was just trying to survive my twists and turns. I smiled in my mask at this thought, wondering what was going through his mind, wondering about this crazy Ivan at the controls. Surely you do not teach these skills at Top Gun? While I had the opportunity, I only learned basic flying and so on for Colonel Martin. I had asked and he laughed and said that I had more combat experience than the instructors. I laughed as well and realized that most Americans have no idea of the experience I really did have, being a Sniper Pilot in the VVS, in which I am, is one of the highest honors. We continued north for a few more minutes.
“Waypoint 8, turn now.” Lt. Spencer had recovered with a breath and I checked my waypoint MFD. I had banked into a flat area, following the heading indicator.
I must admit, despite the controversy surrounding such aircraft, it is well suited for the strike role in which it is designed for. I will complain about fuel load but otherwise I think it is good. My meanderings were cut short when my RWR display showed another F-4 had detected me to my 10 o’clock. I do not think he was in weapons range, but now the game was on, it was only a matter of time he was able to lock on and get within weapons range. I had briefly considered deploying the ALE-50, and enabling ECM, but so far I was not sure, it was best to develop the situation and see where it led before going defensive. Oddly no HAWK SAM batteries were targeting me, or even detected me. I continued to the East along the waypoint route.
While I am quite intimate with the SPO-15 system, the TEWS system was much more descriptive, knowing yes it was a fighter, but this information on what type, is a lot of knowledge. I now considered my options as we screamed at treetop height towards the IP.
“IP” Lt. Spencer called out. “No threats other than the Phantom at 10 o’clock, bearing seems to show he’s circling, east, around 100 miles or so, however aspect seems he’s looking our direction more.”
“Then we shall not stay for dinner tonight yes?” I had selected the SMS page, and now selected the GBU-31V4. Weapon status was green. “Slew the pod.”
“Yup, one second.”
I quickly selected in the upper right MFD the view from the targeting pod. It is truly more capable than the Mercury pod our our best Su-25T aircraft. However the laser can be on most indefinitely and that is good. The Mansion appeared through the trees as Lt. Spencer found the mansion with the ATFLIR and stabilized the image on the screen. Perhaps it is okay if I have somebody in the back seat.
I knew the JDAM did not require a laser designation, but I had ordered Lt. Spencer to lase the target anyways, just in case a follow up attack was necessary with the Mavericks.
“Roger, pulling up now.” I had to get some altitude for this attack. I was five miles out and wished to level bomb the JDAM and chose to release the weapon around 2,000ft AGL. I had not done this before so I was hoping I was okay.
“Releasing weapon.” I hit the pickle button and the JDAM fell off the aircraft.
The weapon, designed to have slight aerodynamic properties, sailed right into the mansion.
Despite the fighter aircraft possibly detecting us, I flew straight, in order to not upset the launch profile of the weapon. Consider this when making level attacks, “nuggets”, as they say in US fighterspeak. One pilot had the misfortune to say this to me, and I was nearly arrested for such an insult!
After re-verifying the damage, I had turned the aircraft West, and now we will head back to the carrier. No reason to stay around either. We continued along for a few minutes, and it seemed the Turkish fighter was getting more inquisitive about what I was doing out here. Still nothing to our front, perhaps we will get lucky tonight… However, occasionally we had detected the enemy aircraft intermittently, broken up as I used the terrain behind me to mask our movement as much as possible.
A few times I heard complaints from Lt. Spencer on my flying techniques, but if an aircraft is capable of high maneuverability, then why not test it as best as possible? We continued on, apparently losing our tail, and then once we hit international waters, I felt safer.
“You know Alexei, my NVGs gave me a lot of washout, how about yours?”
I had neglected the use of night vision goggles, as there was more than enough light to make my run in. As a matter of fact comrades, I was so focused that I noticed trees just centimeters from my aircraft that I did not really think to say anything. Lt. Spencer must have assumed I was flying with them since I flew with precision.
“Yes, I had some problems myself, they do help don’t they?”
“Damn straight man, I don’t think you could ever fly without them at night.”
“True comrade, true comrade, how long until the carrier?”
“Another ten minutes, I hope the Colonel gives us some rack time, I’m tired.”
I too was tired, flying at over 500 knots without night vision equipment does put a toll on your body, and your mind, a nap would be very good indeed.
I had detected the aircraft carrier through the TEWS system with the carrier symbol helping me orient to the carrier since I was not wearing NVGs. I had kept my head forward so Lt. Spencer did not see me not wear them, plus the ejection seat as well helped with that. I maneuvered them down, as now I had to look around. Flipping them on, I saw the carrier’s lights better, and now I had dropped the hook as I made a pass nearby to ensure air traffic was okay to enter the pattern.
“Rough Rider this is Lion 23, wishing to enter the pattern and land.”
“Lion 23 this is Rough Rider, you are clear to land, no wind.”
“Affirmative, Lion 23 beginning approach.”
I maneuvered the aircraft around the carrier. I always came in a bit too fast, so I had deployed the air brakes in order to do this. Unlike the Su-33M2, with its large dorsal airbrake, the Super Hornet has two small ones on the fuselage, and the rudders also act in the same manner. It is quite stable in use and in flight. I turned in I noticed, a bit closer to the carrier than usually what most do, but I always brush it off as combat landing, in reality I just misjudged my turn. Russian pride is always good in covering up mistakes.
In reducing speed during the turn I deployed the landing gear as well, and began my approach.
“Lion 23 this is Rough Rider, call the ball.”
“I have the ball.” I never had the ball, maybe is why I don’t trap like the “experts” in the US Navy. I see the fantail and comrades, and that is enough for me!
“Power, power!” The LSO screamed over the radio.
I increased the throttle a little bit and the velocity vector rose up, and now I land the aircraft. I had learned a vital lesson from a US Marine pilot on how to land on carriers using this system. Do not feel I omitted anything, as when you are carrier landing, your mind is focused somewhere else. I had caught the fourth wire, and the aircraft now came to a stop.
Following the guides, I parked the aircraft, and began shut down procedures.
Immediately a swarm of colors came to my aircraft. Petty Officer Third Class Nicholson started to unstrap us, as he was my Plane Captain. I still would prefer Sergeant Gennedy as my Plane Captain, but as I said, one Russian on board was more than enough to them. He nodded to us and after we were unstrapped, began securing our equipment, and then exited the aircraft. It was nice that Boeing provided an internal ladder on the leading edge extension, therefore saving a lot of energy and effort. We both stepped down, and let the plane go to the colored shirts. It was a nice night out I reflected as the redshirts started to safe my unexpended weapons as we walked away, to the Squadron debriefing room. Sometimes you may need such equipment, but as we saw, we did not and that was good.
We both walked silently to the room, re-evaluating our performance. Enemy air threat was very low, so it was not a difficult mission to perform. I had thought about the Phantom that had acquired me. Perhaps he decided I was not the other Combat Air Patrol due to my flight path, and was surprised that lock on did not occur. Perhaps I will look at the specifications and determine myself. I decided that a cursory examination, as sleep at the time was more important, but I think the rest? Near perfect as we had the chance to be detected, and realized we had gotten lucky on that mission. Why no HAWK batteries locked on us was due to the height, rather than the technology we employed. However the JDAM was a good run, and I will continue to try and utilize this technique.
“So how did it go?” Colonel Martin asked as we walked in. He already knew I could tell by his face, but I was sure he wanted to hear it from me.
“Easy as cake, sir.”
I smiled. I knew it was ‘Easy as Pie’ but I wanted to get Lt. Spencer. A lot of people think I do not understand Western terminology. I have picked up quite a lot since working more directly with them, but I like to throw them how you say? A curveball? With my words in order to keep them on their toes in these times as false superiority is not the way to live sometimes. And to make them falsely think I am a dumb Russian with no sense of the American world. Colonel Martin smiled as Lt. Spencer grimaced.
“Man, its ‘easy as pie’.”
“Oh yes, sorry, I am a bit tired.”
“Got you brother, now if you don’t mind if I sit down, the ride well, was a bit woozy.”
“How so son?” Colonel Martin raised an eyebrow.
Lt. Spencer jerked a thumb towards Alexei.
“Evil Knievel over here, throwing the plane around so much, thought I was going to puke sir.”
Colonel Martin laughed. “Ahh you were in the southern portion so it’s to be expected. At least you all came back in one piece. And if I remember correctly from an Air Force perspective, the word ‘Strike Fighter’ comes to mind when discussing the Super Hornet.”
I sat down and unzipped my flightsuit and relaxed. It was good to be in a solid chair I do admit. I smiled sheepishly at Lt. Spencer’s reference of the old American thrillseeker in regards to my flying. I am not that dangerous or crazy, but flying without NVGs at that altitude and speed, is close I would think…
“True sir, but I think we still could have made it without the jerking around.”
“Well Alexei is what the Russians term, a ‘Sniper Pilot’, which gives him high accolades, much like our Top Gun graduates, which are of course a cut above the rest. Besides son, he’s done far more of that in another area not too far from here I would add.”
“Roger that sir, I’m just a bit tired, no disrespect.”
“It’s okay, you two did excellent, so get some shuteye, and you’d better check the ATO, though it’s later on this afternoon. If my brain serves me you’re back on fueller duty.”
Lt. Spencer grumbled, but made his way out after a customary “yes sir.”
I nodded and stood up. Colonel Martin stopped me.
“Think he’s okay Emenevich?”
“Da, he will be okay, a little how you say? wet behind the ears? Yes he will make a fine backseater until you realize my true calling.”
Colonel Martin smiled. He was sure that having a ‘minder’ on Alexei was more of his calling. He trusted the pilot implicitly, but even a Colonel has to follow orders from higher.
“Well, the skipper of VFA-31 isn’t giving up a pilot for one Russian. Sorry son, but I can’t do everything for you, but if a slot opens up, we’ll see about it. Until later Emenevich.”
“Until then Colonel. And how is Major Grachev?”
“He is doing well, but I would like to stay and talk, but I have a flight to catch, I’ll be back when I need you.”
“Goodbye Colonel, until next time.”
I sighed, in these times, I knew there would be, but when?
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Read more stories about “Alexei” from Eric “Flanker56” Johnson and “Sacha” by “Cat” in the Sacha Chronicles.