By lex, on June 6th, 2007
It was late January or early February almost ten years ago when my wingman and I rattled down the cats, each of us carrying one of the then brand-new Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOW). In the best traditions of the strike fighter service, we were also carrying an AIM-120 AMRAAM mounted on a cheek station, with a forward looking infrared (FLIR) pod on its opposite. Each of us also had a pair of AIM-9M Sidewinders on our wingtips and of course a full drum of 20mm in the nose. We were ready to strut down main street.
Or we would have been that is, if main street hadn’t got so darn crowded. In the fall of 1998, right when a number of interesting revelations were hitting the airwaves back home – summat to do with White House interns and cigars, if I properly recollect – the national command authority watched Saddam kick a bunch of UN weapons inspectors unceremoniously to the door and decided: This shall not stand, and so forth.
The Big E was already in the Gulf when word turned to deed, with the ship I had the honor to serve on racing to join the fray. We got there in time for the final spasm of a four-day campaign of airstrikes and Tomahawk launches intended by President Clinton to “degrade” Iraq’s capability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.
I know: Jolly St. Bill thought there were WMD there too. Sometimes it’s hard to get your head around.
Anyway, we got there just as Ramadan was kicking off and having launched one alpha strike in celebration of the holiday spirit, we summarily took a break from further bombing for a lunar month. For his part, Saddam took a break from kite flying competitions and running political opponents through the plastic shredder to pack the UN-sanctioned southern no-fly zone with enough anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile systems to make walking the airspace over the south easier than flying through it.
Now the southern no-fly zone had become a kind of home away from home for Naval Aviation, at least since 1991. Enraged by his ejection from Kuwait and fearful of a Shi’a rebellion in the unstable south and the ever-restive Kurds in the north, Saddam put tens of thousands of his own citizens to the gun. Bad form, said we, and don’t you use no airplanes to do it with or we shall shoot them down, and so it went for many a desultory year.
We’d become accustomed to sharing the defensive counter-air (DCA) “lanes” south of the 32nd parallel with USAF F-15′s and F-16′s, and mostly nothing much happened, although one day in 1992 a Viper did bag a MiG-25 who got caught playing the fool on the wrong side of the line, to the communal shame of Ego jocks around the world, who thought that MiG killing was very much more in their line of work.
When we weren’t running our DCA lanes – nothing duller in the world when no one comes out to play, by the way – the strike fighters among us (as opposed to those simple fighters who hadn’t gotten their cool on quite yet) were doing target “fams,” familiarizing ourselves with potential targets, just for the practice that was in it. We didn’t drop anything of course, and he never much shot at us, so it was pretty good training so long as you didn’t pooch it by clacking into one another at night or suffering some class of catastrophic malfunction that might begin with a Martin-Baker penetration and end with you on deck with dirty boots on the wrong side of the line. Everyone conceded that of all possible suck scenarios, that would have been pretty much the suckiest.
History, I think, has borne out the truth of that conviction.
But everything was changed, changed utterly after Ramadan in 1998 – a terrible beauty was born. The wide lanes of safety we’d been used to strolling through had become narrow, winding and constricted alleyways, with fixed SAM sites encroaching on the left and right. There were mobile SAMS scattered about too – tracked buggers that could have been almost anywhere, and you had to always honor the threat.
Arty tubes too, as I have already mentioned, and while we were ever-prepared to cram an anti-radiation missile down the throat of anyone who dared to light us up and usually flew well above the effective range of even the large caliber AAA, it was possible to shoot both SAMS and AAA in an unguided mode, and eventually even a poor gunner will get lucky – especially with the airspace so full of aluminum. The “Golden BB” we used to call it, knowing that even at lottery odds, it was only a matter of time.
So anyway, he started to shoot at us rather petulantly, and petulantly we shot back, with him almost always missing and us usually hitting and that was more or less the state of affairs until the 20th of March 2003. Five years of going flying knowing that there was a million dollar reward on your head does great things for your focus in the air, and I can tell you from personal experience that a man can get a lot of job satisfaction from secondary explosions off his hits, so long as he doesn’t think too hard on it.
So there we were, my wingie and I – and a damned good man he was too, intelligent, perceptive and attentive to his wingmanlike duties – and on that particular day the bad guy had done a bad thing, so we were fairly confident that the Boss Man would cry a little havoc and let the dogs of war slip a bit, that having been the general trend over the course of the last several, even as it added a bit to our breathing space.
Prepared for just such an eventuality, we were fragged, briefed and loaded to thump a couple of SAM sites with our JSOWs before setting up a barrier CAP north of the target while a second four-ship of strike fighters – which, by this time included the “venerable” Tomcat – did the laser guided bomb thing on another predetermined target in close proximity to our own.
(to be continued…)
Lost Opportunities, II
By lex, on June 7th, 2007
Every strike fighter pilot worth his salt has a dream, a very simple one: In this dream he will launch from the deck of an aircraft carrier at sea loaded for bear. Having marshalled the forces at his disposal – the dream is scalable by experience and qualification: The forces at a wingman’s disposal are himself, his jet and the weapons he is carrying, while a strike lead may have 18-20 other aircraft attuned to his every whim – he will navigate his craft towards a target, acquire the target successfully and deliver his ordnance precisely. He will capture the moment of the target’s destruction on video tape in his cockpit, a kind of scalp-taking for the digital age – call it: Proof of death. Having successfully cleared the defenses around the target – if it was worth attacking, it was worth defending – he will regain situational awareness to his team members, reset the formation and head back to the ship, making good time.
And then it will happen: Having transitioned out of air-to-ground mode and back to air-to-air, he will dig something out of the ground on the margins of his radar, something that doesn’t make sense, not one of us, moving fast, climbing – heading our way. Or else the watchful eyes of an E-2 NFO will report a pop-up contact between his group and the ship, altitude low, identity unknown. Or maybe even something at six o’clock, moving fast. Moving very fast. Closing.
The strike fighter pilot will ask terse questions of the E-2, his wingman, do the math quickly in his head, compare it to his pre-briefed commit criteria. Here we are, that is where we are going – he is over there, this is his reported speed, those are the intercept angles. Having done the calculations, his eyes momentarily unseeing even as the airspeed builds on the jet, he will decide: Commit, or run away.
It may sound easy, but it’s not: An off target commit is necessarily defensive in nature – although you’d prepared for every contingency, the mission had been to strike targets that day, not bag MiGs, and for the last several minutes you had been wholly obsessed with the former.
A commit means turning to find the threat on radar, evaluating his composition – one bandit or two? Assessing his position, airspeed, altitude and target angle – am I being led into a trap? Employing weapons successfully and then separating from the wreckage – do I have enough fuel remaining? What if I get in a brawl? All these things sound simple in theory.
But in practice they are strenuously cramped and crowded moments, with the outcome ever in doubt and your very life on the line. It should be simple to find the threat, but sometimes you do not, or there may be others in company you did not find. It should be simple to execute the weapons employment, but sometimes weapons fail, leaving you up close with an agitated foe in a visual engagement, a kind of aerial “Thunderdome” where the rules are simple: “Two men enter, one man leaves.” And yes, my love – those are the only choices.
Everyone wants to paint a MiG planform on his jet, but no one wants to die, or – what might be worse – spend an indeterminate time as the imprisoned guest of a brutal and tyrannical regime. Fortune may favor the bold, but sometimes discretion truly is the better part of valor. And after all, you have by now done what you were asked to do, the target is destroyed – he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.
But running away is no sure thing, not when a bad guy has angles on you, and perhaps a speed advantage as well. There comes a point when it is too late to commit and your only remaining choice is to strain around in your seat and check between your tails, to wait for the sight of missile smoke at six o’clock, and pray that you can defeat the threat, for when a bandit has closed nearly to weapons release range any turn you might make will only help him solve his problem.
Some times you cannot run away. Some things are best dealt with while they are merely hard, rather than waiting until they are nearly impossible. Nothing is certain in life but death and taxes, and when facing these kinds of binary choices, it is always comforting to have at your side a good wingman.
(to be continued…)
Lost opportunities, III
By lex, on June 8th, 2007
The Good Wingman
When I was a plebe midshipman at the Severn River Trade School, CAPT Dick Stratton came to speak to us one fine day in the fall. We were always tired in those days, always harassed and always getting “motivational” speeches from officers so senior to us that there was no real frame of reference to their experiences. We often dozed off.
Captains were, after all, unspeakably old men. Ancient.
But Stratton was different, we knew of him. We’d seen him over the summer during leadership courses, in grainy video clips and photos, wearing the gray and black, vertically striped sack that was issued to guests of the Hanoi Hilton prison system.
He’d gotten bagged – or, to use his own words “shot himself down” – on an H&I mission over a northern canal system in January, 1967. He’d unloaded a salvo of 2.75″ FFAR – folding fin rockets – on a hostile convoy of barges bringing supplies to the Viet Cong down country. Some of the rocket fins didn’t open, they interfered with each other and the next thing he knew he’d taken debris down the intake of his single-motor A-4E Skyhawk. It ran rough for a bit even as he turned for the coast, but he punched out when the motor quit. He was treated roughly after capture and more roughly still over the next 6+ years of his captivity. As a POW, he courageously endured the worst forms of physical and mental torture imaginable and survived – like almost every one of them – with his honor intact.
There are no heroes in lost wars, we are not permitted them, not at least for many years afterwards. But the POWs were the next best thing to heroes that we were allowed from what was still a suppurating wound of national disgrace in the fall of 1978 – it had only been three years since the fall of Saigon, and the bad memories, shame and blame-casting were still fresh.
We stayed awake for Dick Stratton. We listened to him.
There was a point in his speech to us when Stratton talked about the qualities he wanted in a “good wingman” – I forget exactly those he enumerated, because he summarized them thus: “If I ever find myself coming out of the weather and about to run into a mountain, the last thing I want to see as I blow up is my wingman augering in right beside me.”
I have to admit that as a young man, it seemed a bizarre image. Wouldn’t it have been better I thought, if maybe the last thing would have been the wingman hollering, “Pull up!”?
I didn’t understand – there was still so much for me to learn.
Although our language would always be different, in time I came to appreciate what the good captain was saying about a good wingman – and it seems such faint praise to label someone a “good wingman,” doesn’t it? To the uninitiated it seems almost a left-hand compliment, as though being a good wingman meant that one was personally incapable of leading.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
A man who flies the jet well may be known as a “good stick,” but this will be thought little more than the grace that God has given him. He may be a called a “good ball flyer” for his skill landing aboard ship, but that is a merely technical skill, admirable enough in its own way, but not particularly special – as at any skill, some will always be better and others worse. To be known as a “good wingman” however is another thing entirely.
A good wingman is a pearl beyond price.
A good wingman is intelligent and disciplined, in the air and on the ground. He knows his machine and the mission he’s fragged for because he’s prepared himself – he doesn’t need to be spoon fed. He knows that it is the lead’s responsibility to develop the plan, and the wingman’s responsibility to support it, so he listens carefully in the brief, and he visualizes the lead’s guidance – he can see it all coming together. If there’s a part he doesn’t get, he’ll ask right there and then, knowing that once he’s in the air, with bandits airborne, the target approaching, the radar warning receiver warbling in his headset, the blood singing in his veins and smoke trails reaching out and weaving through the cobalt blue skies, the time for questions is irretrievably past.
He knows that once he walks out of the ready room and stepped towards the flight deck he has officially passed the GICOT – the “good idea cut-off time.” From that point on he will fly the brief as it was delivered – he will be predictable, for his lead will have much to concern himself with and cannot afford for his wingman to be part of those concerns.
If events unfold in such a way that the brief is proved to be in some way insufficient, he’ll listen up for the lead to call audibles and only then offer suggestions if none are forthcoming. If the lead doesn’t respond or isn’t capable, the wingman will fly wing satisfied, if not entirely content, in the knowledge that perhaps it was a good day to die. Which is what I think CAPT Stratton was saying, back in the fall of 1978.
But these are only pre-requisites – necessary, but not sufficient.
To be a truly good wingman, one cannot merely be a good follower – one must place oneself inside the lead’s cockpit. Understand what he understands, know what it is he’s thinking, predict what he will do even before he asks it. Because a good wingman will, like a computer that plays chess, analyze every possible move, rank and order them according to probability and – knowing the mission, knowing the brief, knowing the lead – anticipate his desires. When the order does comes – whenever and whatever it is, briefed or unbriefed – a good wingman will execute as quickly and indeed joyfully as though the lead had done it for him.
It is very hard to be a good wingman, and an honor to be known as one.
A little more than 20 years after Dick Stratton’s speech in that lecture hall at Annapolis, flying half way around the world at 27,000 feet over a dismal and broken tan terrain, spotted here and there with filthy settlements that looked like nothing so much as rotted teeth I had the honor and great fortune to have a good wingman in company with me on a day of lost opportunities.
“Knob” was his call sign.
(To be continued…)
Lost opportunities, IV
By lex, on June 10th, 2007
When the no-fly zones were first instituted following Saddam’s brutal suppression of the Shia in the south, Navy and Air Force fighters filled the counter-air lanes more or less continuously – a needlessly wearing pace of operations, especially after 1992 when the Iraqi Air Force stopped tempting fate by trolling around below the 32nd parallel. By the late 90′s, operations had become routinized, almost to a fault, with large force packages of anywhere between 8 and 20 aircraft assembling for fixed lengths known and “vul windows” and then returning either to airbases in Saudi or back to the aircraft carrier(s) at sea in the Arabian Gulf.
At first we used to have two dedicated lanes of defensive counter-air (DCA), plus a strike package of four to eight jets milling about in the middle supported by at least one EA-6B Prowler for electronic warfare support. To that Prowler would also typically be attached a two-ship of FA-18′s in close escort, while an E-2 patrolled just south of the Iraqi border to provide long range radar search and command and control. Bucket brigades of S-3′s came off mission searching the northern gulf for oil smugglers long enough to bring gas to thirsty mid-cycle fighters in Kuwait, while lumbering USAF tankers filled air refueling tracks in the gulf and KSA as well. In time we dispensed with the dedicated DCA almost entirely, since – apart from the closely protected Prowler – all of the TACAIR in country had a robust self-defense capability.
In the weeks and months immediately following Operation Desert Fox, above and beyond emplacing surface-to-air missile batteries in the southern No-Fly zone, Saddam had taken to randomly launching a fighter or two at the end of each vul window. They would trail the exiting force packages out of “the box” in order to give Saddam the propaganda victory of claiming that his invincible air force had once again chased away the “cowardly ravens” of the coalition. Much thought and no small amount of jet gas was spent pondering ways to catch these bandits in their poaching across the line, but to no avail – the MiG launches were not frequent enough to justify a level of effort operation, and having no real tactical or strategic impact were ignored by the heavies.
But not by us, we few, we happy few, we band of box hoppers. We avidly devoured the after action reports of these sorties with glittering eyes, imagining. Visualizing the tactics that would put us in position to shoot. Seeing the kill.
The things that follow you may find off-putting – peaceful souls will recoil from the bloodlust, and there will be many who disagree with the merits of my argument. I will draw distinctions, always an unpopular course – and I will speak around the notion of an elite.
We do not often talk of these things in the service. Indeed, the national spirit rebels against soi disant “elites,” but the sentiments are nevertheless authentic. Even those who disagree my conclusions will have to concede that – accurate or not – these are the perspectives of those inside the fighter community.
It is not my intent to antagonize, offend, nor even to persuade. My wish is simply to inform. This is, in fact, how many of us feel.
No one finds himself in a fighter by accident – for those who fly them, they are the pinnacle of professional achievement and the very top of a dramatically narrowing pyramid. It’s no mean feat to get commissioned, physically, morally or academically – there were 10,000 applicants for my class at USNA, 3500 or so were “qualified” for admission, the top 2,000 or so were offered positions, 1300 showed up to swear the oath, and just over a thousand of us graduated. The competition is just as fierce in the other commissioning routes.
Once you hit the fleet, getting into flight school is competitive, based on performance and physical qualification, with many ways to fall off the tracks along the way. Of my entering academy class, over half wanted to fly. By the time we’d graduated about 300 still wanted to and were physically qualified – there were 200 billets available. The others did something else.
Leaving primary flight school, perhaps a third of each cohort selects for the jet pipeline, sometimes less. The rest go the maritime route (props) or select to helicopters. There were about 35 students in my primary class – on the first day of class, when asked, “Who wants jet?” all but one of us put his hand up. Six months later only half did, and just eight of us were selected for the jet pipeline.
Once in jets, the competition and winnowing steepens – you’re young, you’re hard charging, aggressive – you want it all. So does everyone else. When everybody wants something – whether it’s a juicy set of orders to a great job or location, or whether it’s a seat in high tech fighter, the Navy has a simple way of deciding who to choose: Performance. I was up against 25 other guys when the time came for seat selection, all of us were “selectively retained graduates” – in the top third of our jet pipeline class when winged, and kept back as instructors for students who were in some cases only a few months behind us in the pipeline. Of those 25 who had finished in the top one-third of their jet class, eight of us got fighters and 5 of us got Hornets. Two of those eight were dead within a year.
Others in the naval service claim that fighter pilots have a reputation for arrogance. Fighter pilots generally concede the point, arguing that even if that reputation was true, that at least it was honestly earned. I don’t want to overstate the point: It’s safe to say that not everybody wants to serve, and of those that serve not everyone wants to fly, and not everyone who wants to fly wants to fly jets, and not everyone who flies jets wants to fly fighters. But even given all that, it’s also safe to say that everybody that flies fighters wants to be there. And I think I’m safe in saying that everyone who has ever flown a fighter wants an aerial kill.
Few, I think, have ever wanted one as much as I. I can scarcely believe that anyone might ever have wanted one more.
(To be continued…)
Lost opportunities, V
By lex, on June 11th, 2007
Well, I think I’ve strung you along for long enough. I told you what we dream of, a day cat shot loaded for bear, a shack hit on a defended target, a MiG kill on the way home and an OK-3 wire (day) landing with maybe a bacon cheeseburger at midrats to help lull you to sleep. The bombing and the landing would almost be a matter of routine after a while, but the opportunity of a MiG would be something else indeed – no one ever comes out to play anymore. Put them all together, and that’d be a pretty good day.
You could write a book about a day like that.
But you already know how the story ends – and that I didn’t get my MiG. Trust me, if I had, you’d have heard about it long ago – I would have found a way to work it subtly in to every other post or so. Like, “Did I ever tell you about the time I flamed that Flogger? I did? Do you want to hear it again?”
But there was full disclosure all along, right there in the title of the post. And I wanted you to understand, to feel it. I wanted you to remember the environment we operated in: Never at war, never at peace and a madman whose fondest dream it was to shoot one of us down and parade us through the streets of his capital, or else hurl us in to some dark and secret place where evil men could work their worst – hell holes beyond the glare of public view, in places where neither the ACLU nor the Red Cross had the slightest degree of influence. There are things worse than dying as we very well knew, and there was a reason that I learned to count the rounds from my pistol as they left the barrel in training: Having saved the final bullet there would always be at least one alternative to imprisonment.
I wanted to tell you what wisdom we had received from the brave men who’d gone before us, men who set the standard for another generation of wingmen, men who would sturdily bind their fates to our own in the skies above an unremittingly hostile land.
And finally I wanted to try to share with you how very rare the opportunity is to find yourself in an armed fighter, carrying heat when the E-2 controller says, “Bandit airborne out of al Taqqadum, track south.” I wanted you to understand how electrifying those words could be.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Most box hops were boring – long hours spent tooling around trying not to get complacent and almost hoping that something exciting would happen. Not too exciting though. A man can only take so much excitement.
Knob and I had gotten airborne in good time, gotten our gas and were waiting for the rest of the gaggle to go through the tanker when the word came on the net that, once again, one of the good guys had been shot at and – thankfully – once again the ground gunner had missed. The right number of provocations having finally been accumulated, this would serve as a “trigger” event for a response. It was our lucky day; we were a “go,” before we even got feet dry. I remember that my mouth suddenly went a little dry, and my heart rate increased – I mumbled the obligatory prayer, “God, please don’t let me mess this up,” as we headed north, completing our combat checklists, each of us thinking our private thoughts in the background, but trying to focus on the task at hand. Trying not to think too much.
It was our job to suppress a SAM battery near the target with our JSOWs, so we pushed out well in front of the rest of the package, just the two of us. There was very little chatter – we’d briefed thoroughly, and Knob, as I have said, was a very good wingman. Most of the hard work in JSOW employment is done in mission planning – weapons delivery itself couldn’t be simpler, it is almost an anti-climax. Once in range we hit our weapons release “pickles,” the weapons fell away from our wings with a mechanical “THWOK!”, spreads their wings and started looking for home. For a moment there were four of us there, where before there had only been two – all flying formation. Pigs away.
We turned a bit out of the way, since it makes no sense to follow a “stand-off” weapon into a hostile missile engagement zone. We did slave our forward-looking infrared pods to the impact zone though, since it was considered good form to have video evidence of weapon effects. Some of the pilots that had brought back video of SAMs cooking off on the ground after a JSOW attack, skipping madly across the terrain as their rocket motors ignited. Our effects were more subdued, but gratifying nonetheless – where once there had been a SAM battery, now a series of fires raged.
The strikers were not far behind us, and we watched their work with professional interest even as we almost automatically switched our weapons system back to an air-to-air mode to scan for airborne threats – unlikely of course, but such is the force of deeply ingrained habit. Having completed our primary mission, we flexed to our secondary role of providing a barrier CAP between the strikers and anything flushing out of the north. The strikers had completed their tasking – “tasking”: funny, these little antiseptics that we use to insulate ourselves from thinking about what it would mean to be on the other end of our work – and turned southbound. We lagged on station for a couple of minutes before sauntering after them at a leisurely pace, closing the door behind as it were.
We were about half-way back to Kuwait when the E-2 told us about that MiG coming south. He was much too far behind us to present any kind of threat, and although he was making good time in a demonstration of eager hostility, I more than suspected that he’d snap back to the north as soon as we turned to confront him.
Still, it was worth a try to find out. How many chances do you get?
(Have you noticed that when we talk about targets on the ground, we talk about “it”, but when we talk of enemy fighters the language switches to “him”? The first is a kind of duty. The second is more personal. Almost intimate.)
Silently, knowing that Knob would support whatever plan I developed, I worked the math in my head. If I could slow us down a bit – show a little thigh as it were, just a little – he might be tempted across the line far enough that we could turn the tables on him. If he was receiving poor ground control or hesitated even a moment we might trap him across the line and bring him down in flaming little pieces south of the 32nd parallel.
It was considered important that the wreckage land on “our” side of the line.
I did a quick fuel state check with Knob – we didn’t have a lot. Certainly enough to get us to the tanker orbiting overhead the ship if we went there straight away, but not enough for a full blown aerial engagement and a recovery at sea. We’d have to land in Kuwait, get gas there and then scamper back to the ship. A MiG kill might ease the sting of being late for the recovery. With a MiG kill, we might even be forgiven.
When I judged the time was right I called the E-2 and requested a commit to the north. “Stand by,” was the controller’s initial reply before he finally concluded, “Bossman says RTB”
Bossman wasn’t the E-2, he was a very senior officer on deck. By the sound of his voice, my controller was sympathetic – but higher authority had issued the order for us to RTB – return to base. I was shocked and angry, disbelieving. Here we were ostensibly policing the “no fly zone” and there to the north was an Iraqi fighter brazenly violating UN sanctions.
“Bossman says we’ve had a pretty good day, RTB” came the controller’s reluctant reply.
A lot of thoughts go through your head at a moment like that, not all of them printable in a family blog, and not all of them creditable. I knew that if I told Knob to shut down his IFF, he would have done so unquestioningly. I knew that if I threw him a wingflash, he’d follow me to the north, supporting the plan even as we found our target on radar, prepared to employ weapons, execute the briefed game plan. I knew that without the IFF to highlight our position it would be several crucial moments before either Bossman or the E-2 could put it all together. I knew that by the time they did it would be too late – we would have been committed to the engagement with no possibility of safe withdrawal and command would have been forced to throw the full weight of their support behind us. I thought that with a MiG pelt hanging from our harness to go with the SAM battery we’d bashed and the OK-3 wire to come, few hard questions would be asked of us in the debrief.
It would have been a very good day indeed – I had never in 17 years of flying been so close, nor ever (God help me) wanted anything more.
I gripped the stick with my hand tightly, thinking hard, leg muscles already bunching up in anticipation of the g-forces induced by a hard turn back to the north. Took a look over at Knob, flying there in perfect formation – I could sense his equal readiness to fight or flee, the fascinated anticipation with which he in turn regarded my machine.
My thumb tightened on the throttle-mounted UHF switch and even as I keyed it I was not entirely sure what I would say.
“Roger, RTB,” is what I said.
Some people get to do what they want – others do what they must. There would be other days, I thought. Other MiGs.
I was half right.