South of the Border Page 3

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“Sochi departure, Angel 1 flight of two ready to taxi, IFR with information Foxtrot, flight plan as filed.”

Did you know that we operate from the international airport of what is, after all, a resort city on the Black Sea? Our President, Vladimir Vladimirovich, he was here, just some weeks ago, on his vacation. He recently was re-elected to lead us. We even have a Marriott hotel, downtown, it is where Uncle Grigoriy and I met. They have a casino, but I do not gamble. Uncle Grigoriy does, though, and he is very good at the chemin-de-fer.

“Angel 1 cleared for takeoff. Contact Captain Scarlet on 121.9 when you pass the outer marker.”

Sacha pulls up landing gear on takeoff.The Su-25T is very different to handle on the takeoff run than you may be used to. The problem, even with a balanced loadout, is that it has a large 30mm twin-barrel GSh cannon just offset to the left. There is really no way to compensate for this. Due to the cannon, the aircraft will tend to pull to the left during takeoff and landing. It takes all my concentration to keep him on the straight and narrow during the takeoff run. Soon, though, I smoothly rotate off the runway at 280 kph and retract landing gear. Landing speed in the Su-25T is a sedate 250 kph, and if one follows the two circles of the ILS system, keeping the small circle centered inside the large one, and keeps her speed carefully at what it should be as indicated on the HUD, landing is a snap! The Rook is balanced and handles very well on the approach. It responds slowly to throttle input, and is easy to keep at the appropriate speed. And low-speed handling is generous and smooth. But before we concern ourselves with the landing, we must first survive the day.

Sacha and Vasily over Sochi.Gudauta is seventy kilometers away or so. It is but a short hop. I contact the AWACS, Captain Scarlet, and am cleared onto the range.

“Angel 1, fence check.”

We have taken many habits from the Americans who are with us, including our comms discipline now. The A-10 and F-15 crews, led by Colonel Martin, have influenced us greatly. They are in large part our advisors now. We have learned that Soviet-era tactics did not come without their price. Our Commander is determined that we shall learn all we can from our former enemies, while we still are friends. One does not know who one can trust, tomorrow.

Vasily reports all is well. We pass over Gantiadi, where the Buk SAM battery hides with the headquarters of the 41st Division. It registers on the SPO-15LM receiver by my right knee, in its accustomed place, the same as in the MiG or Crane I usually fly. It is good to be in another of Sukhoi’s fighters again, even if it is what you would call a “mud mover” rather than my beautiful Crane. But now, to business.

“Angel 1, IP.”

“1-2, running in.”

“Roger. Music on.”

IPWe activate our radar and IR jamming gear. The Rook is most survivable on the modern battlefield. The MPS-410 or SPS-141, combined with the Sukhogruz, make us hard to see by air defense systems. And now, it is time.

I select zem-lya mode, the air-to-ground submode. Unlike the basic Su-25, the Su-25T is advanced and has many of the submodes familiar to those of you who have flown our fast jets such as the Crane. The T version has all the same navigation modes, FIO mode for missile combat in the air, the air to ground zem-lya mode, and the “Setka” grid for when the system is damaged. In air-to-ground mode, I turn the switch on the Shkval and see the IT-23M television display on the right eyebrow panel light up with an optical view of the world in shades of grey. Unlike the Maverick TVM on the excellent A-10, the Su-25T’s monitor can be used all the time, not just when a missile is on board. It is helpful in many ways. We can load the Mercuriy pod for low-light-level work, allowing use of night-vision via the television screen! It is an LLLTV, low-light-level television, an image-intensification device.

The Su-25T

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