By lex, on December 6th, 2011
Our mission was to attack the imperialist, running-dog, bandits attacking our valiant, progressive forces on our sacred motherland in the name of “democracy”, “liberty”, and “Obamacare.” They were fewer than we, but fierce, while we hard iron in our hearts, for we were permitted to regenerate, having once been killed. They, on the other hand, were single-shot morts, the poor b*stards, and no one promised them that it’d be all beer and skittles in the halls of the (prestigious) Navy Fighter Weapons School. Bring it hard or stay home.
A beautiful day for flying in the Fallon Training Range Complex, winds light and variable at three knots, ceilings and visibility unlimited, the air cold but as clear Waterford crystal.
I was on the wing of a Super Hornet flown by a nice young man who certainly couldn’t have been old enough to be out of school without permission from his parents, far less piloting a fighter. Solo. Still, the evidence was right there in front of me, and I couldna but help wondering what he thought of your grizzled host, out there on his wing in an aircraft nearly as old as he hisself, the horror.
Which he was unfailingly polite and respectful to his elder – they most of them are, I’m forever getting cautious salutes from them as aren’t quite certain what the status is of the elderly gent in the flight suit and jacket with the TOPGUN patch on his arm, and the Wings of Gold on his chest, which I’ve earned them, haven’t I?
So we blasted into the cold morning sky, knocked out our g-warm up, checked into the range and descended down to a thousand feet, to commence our combat air patrol, awaiting further events. We were to be the hard fist of ideological purity destined to strike and smash the impudent enemy ground forces with our air-to-ground weapons, and our brave socialist comrades in the fighter support elements drew lazy contrails in the sky above us, separated by 15 miles across the ground, and six as the crow flies, could crows in fact fly vertically to 34,000 feet.
Eventually god spoke to us, and his name was Ivan, and Ivan told us that the fight was on. First one and then the other fighter element above us pushed out to violently oppose the imperialist vultures defending their grotesque warlord ground forces. In time it became our turn to push, and push we did.
“480 in the box,” my dashing young flight lead told me, and I translated that to mean “480 knots on the steam gauge airspeed indicator,” the Kfir lacking any class of heads up display in which boxes might be fortuitously arranged. We had to be below 500 feet above ground level to satisfy the stipulated rules of engagement, and no minimum altitude was prescribed. I assumed that we would level off at around 200 feet or so above the ground, that being a standard profile for very low flight in tactical jet aircraft. It’s good that the FA-18E Super Hornet is equipped with a radar altimeter – my own steed was not – for the evidence of my eyes and many years experience lied to me, and told me that we were a bit lower still. The good wingman hangs on, keeps sight and hopes for the best. Your host is nothing, if not a good wingman.
Four hundred and eighty nautical miles per hour is cooking on pretty high heat, and the sensation of speed is much enhanced by proximity to terra firma. I kept one eye on my leader, one on my terrain clearance as we zorched over greater and lesser mountains, and a third eye on my fuel gauge, for I have not yet come to fully trust that system and it wouldn’t do to find oneself short of go-juice with miles to go before you land. Bearing in mind that while it’s technically true that every airplane that has hitherto taken wing must land eventually, yet do professional aviators make subtle distinctions between those that grease the rubber on the runway at the end of a satisfying flight, and those that spread themselves out hither in yon in the vasty desert, with no proper fire to send them on to their reward, for the lack of anything combustible remaining in the fuel reservoirs. At that speed and altitude, in a jet with only a small drop tank and a couple of assorted pods bolted on the wings I had plenty of throttle left in basic engine, and had no need of reheat.
“Thrilling” doesn’t do it justice, “exhilarating” is closer to the mark, but only by degree. You’d really have to see it yourself, and would have done too, but I cannot find a suitable mounting system for that nice little HD video camera that you and I went in on, bless your fraternal, socialist hearts. All of the assorted mounting hardware designed to bolt it to my helmet is either too cumbersome to fit within the constraints of the must-not-be-scratched-at-any-cost canopy, or requires intrusive modifications to my brain bucket that I am loth to personally perform. I’ll figure something out eventually, and given my mechanical skills, that something will very likely entail a patch or two of Velcro.
A glance or two into the sky above us demonstrated that our brave allies and loathed enemies were still contesting the control of the skies above us. Semi-circular contrails intersected and looped away, or else pointed fixedly towards one another in direct confrontation. A scant few hundred feet above Highway 50 – the “loneliest highway in America” – we passed truckers going both ways who might have wished that the sky above their heads was just a wee bit lonelier still. I cannot imagine what goes through the mind of a long haul trucker in the vast nothingness of that lonely space suddenly aware of two jets shrieking down on him with the spurs put to them. I can imagine what passes from their lips, but I have misgivings about whether it could be repeated on a family blog.
In time god told that we were the Last Great Hope of the Nation, our valorous comrades having cruelly murdered by the lickspittle Yankee air pirates, and sent back to their regen CAPS, for to give it another go. It’d be a little while yet before they could rejoin the brawl, and we were all on our own.
Not much later my lead regretfully informed me that he was “spiked” on his radar warning receiver, and with one last fraternal farewell, he detached to face the fiends head on, forsaking his own life to give me a chance to get to my launch point. “Gate”, god said, meaning that they were on to me and that I should put her into afterburner, the better to honor my lead’s valiant sacrifice and maybe get my weapons off. I cast a gimlet eye on my fuel remaining, and silently promised god that I would indeed select burner at some point in the future, just not today. You can regenerate from a simulated air-to-air kill, but from a professional standpoint a flameout on short final is a little more problematical. Your number of take-offs and landings ideally add up to an even number. Mine still do, knock wood.
I got to the airspace border which demarcated my launch point, and had to turn pretty hard to keep from spilling right out. Shortly after I finished my turn and set the course for home, god sadly informed me that I was dead, and thanked me for my service, promising that my name would be emblazoned on the pantheon of socialist heroes. They got me, in other words, but whether it was before or after I rained hell on their camouflaged ogres and brutes will only come out in the debrief, kill calls taking some time to pass from one frequency to another.
I stayed low to keep out of the way of the next wave of socialist ardor to crash upon the remaining air pirates. Headed home again, albeit at a more leisurely pace. Landed uneventfully, and with sufficient fuel to keep it no more than usually exciting. Taxied in, shut her down and went over to pass my observations to the bandit lead.
“Did you have fun?” he asked, and I had to admit that I did.
If you could put that hop in a bottle, you’d have to register it as a controlled substance.