By lex, on October 13th, 2011
Which it’s a Marine two-seat fighter squadron out of Miramar we’re up against, and your host would prefer it had they stayed at home, for it’s nobbut a wee, sma’ commute from the Crushing Burden of Debt to the air station, not to mention the conjugals that are in it. Still deploy they would, and here we are in Mountain Home, Idaho.
Which the airspace is quite congenial to the fuel challenged bandit pilot, for you are never more than 100 miles from a 13,000 foot runway. And the fuel system in my aircraft was attentive to its duty today, the maintenance wizards having sprayed it with oil or something before waving some crows feet around whilst dancing around the bonfire and chanting supplications. Is my impression. Any sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic to a knuckle-dragging fighter pilot.
We were greeted at the squadron’s spaces by one after another series of impossibly young Marine Corps captains, each of them more childlike than the rest. I found myself wondering aside to my flight lead whether they had gotten permission slips from their parents to be here, and he replied, “what do you think they take us for?” Which was, for all his seniority in time and type, an impertinence, I thought.
A thoroughly professional brief, a relatively uneventful launch sequence and before you knew it we were in the airspace. Good airspace mostly, and most of it supersonic, with only some seemingly random altitude restrictions and one no-fly area around the tiny town of something-or-other. Whose 10 or 12 citizens have somehow through, concerted and coordinated effort, contrived to prevent the entire US Air Force from flying anywhere within a 5 nm radius of their hamlet. Not that I’m complaining, like, but more in admiration.
Your host’s mission on the first hack of defending his airfield from attack by Our Stalwart Marines was to cap down at 500′ or so and try and sneak up on ‘em when they went after the other feller CAPing a little higher. Which, they gave thanks but they’d have none, dividing their superior forces and swooping down on me in the manner of avenging angels, like, and clubbing baby seals wasn’t in it. They were that fierce.
At least I had them both in sight at the merge, for it comes back to you in time. I never had better visual awareness of the battlespace than when I was flying a Scooter out of Key West, for without either radar or radar warning receivers, it’s not like you’ve got anything better to do than look outside.
We tried to tap them off target, but they were aware of our motions and biffed us once again. They had gotten a little split up, and I tried to mingle in and among the group that was after my lead, but the trailing element wasn’t biting and it was a belly shot I took as I tried to close the range to the leaders. It was worth a try.
There are a number of tiny rivers, creeks really, that run through the range. The action of millenia has surrounded them with great and scenic canyons. Greenery clings to the banks and my imagination tells me that there are rainbow trout there for the having for anyone hardy enough to make the trek, and indeed in a certain river bend I espied an ancient cabin with the outline of an animal pen gone down to decay, the leave-behinds of some eldar adventurer who really didn’t want to know his neighbors. In another life I’d make the journey out there to check it out, turn things over with my boot, wonder at who had lived there, and why, and how they had come to leave. But not this life. Instead I am left with imagination.
The fighters reset and had another go at us, and we never laid a glove on them. I was happy for their success, happier still to pass our notes on to the training officer and head back to the hotel, foregoing the sere pleasures of a two-and-a-half hour debrief. They’re probably at it still, bless their leathery hearts.
Two more hops tomorrow, both of them in the daytime. I don’t know how it gets much better than this.