Ringside seat

By lex, on October 14th, 2006

The first day of our assessment yesterday and there wasn’t much for your humble scribe to do, straightaway,  the experts had fanned out, and were doing that expert thing. I was left to my own devices.

I went up to the flag bridge, one level below the pilot house to get a workout in. As a space whose tactical importance is much diminished by the video-screen nature of modern naval combat, it functions now as a cardio gym for senior officers. It’s on the O-9 level, or 10 steep-pitched ladders up from where I have parked my slops, so it would be something of a workout just getting there, except that the ship’s XO has been so kind as to lend me a key to the captain’s elevator. We are feeling rather chuffed at our importance, these days.

Lunch then and more time to kill. The air wing has been rather busy of late, vigorously supporting operations ashore. I wandered by the ship’s intel center, to see if there were any interesting clips collected.

There were.

A guy I know, who’d served with me in the halls of the (Prestigious) Navy Fighter Weapons School had a mission not long ago. Some coalition folks were taking heavy fire, Brits by the sound of it, and he was called into support the TIC with his wingman.

When you watch these tapes, you see FLIR videos and hear voices on the radio. With four thousand hours of air time not so very in my wake, it is enough to mentally paint the entire picture in three dimensions. Down on the ground, the voice of a British soldier, excited but professional, he’s struggling to get eyes on the strike fighters, orient them to the friendlies first, orient them to the hostiles next, set up the attack axis, de-conflict the attack axis with friendly positions. He’s doing this while trying to peek over a parapet under hostile fire, and his voice is rising. He’s not panicked, but he clearly needs it bad. The frustrated voices of the fighters, straining to build the picture, exquisitely sensitive to knowing exactly where the good guys are, exactly where the bad guys are, entirely unwilling to make a mistake, knowing the amount of destruction they hold in their hands. It takes what must seem like agonizingly long minutes to the guys on the ground, more communications from them, their radio calls punctuated by the staccato sound of medium machine gun fire ‚ outgoing, almost certainly ‚ they are hard pressed. They would prefer that the fighters engage with their 20mm cannons, if possible, the enemy is that close. Too close maybe for heavy ordnance. Unless that’s all you’ve got, then what the hell.

It seems to take too long. It seems to take forever. There is a moment when the fighters cannot raise their contact on the ground, he does not respond to their radio calls. The moment stretches with terrible pregnancy, hearing it even days afterwards, my mind sketches in all the possibilities, I feel the consternation in the cockpits of the supporting fighters. Finally the British soldier answers and everything clicks into place. The fighters start their roll-ins, start flinging themselves at the ground, bringing hell and death with them. In a matter of moments the cameras record the eerily silent sight of the bomb blasts unfolding on the ground, like a time lapse video of a flower blossoming. It is over, the balance has shifted. Fire superiority is achieved.

Will there be anything else?

Not for the now. Thanks for your help.

The rest of my day? Not quite so interesting as that.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, FA-18, Naval Aviation

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