Let’s see if we can build a good mind picture for you.
You are strapped into an ejection seat with a solid fuel rocket a foot under your butt. A few feet behind you sits 3 tons of JP-5 jet fuel. You are surrounded by the technological trappings of your craft – radio crackling in your helmet, the soft hiss of oxygen flowing into your mask. The verbiage of naval aviation is echoing in your ears – terms, phrases, and queries such as “Closeout, interrogative Texaco” or “Strike, Cams are joined” or (of course) “Fights on!”. You have the world’s most powerful air-to-air radar in the nose of your jet and your mind is wrapped around things like azimuth, altitudes, ranges, speed, target aspect, reciprocals, reattacks and a dozen other things related to your job. Tactics, or how you would direct the initial stages of an intercept, are foremost in your mind. You have a half-dozen or so different panels surrounding you with about 30 or 40 switches and knobs and dials and indicators, all serving some function or other that contribute to your mission.
Your nose gunner, aka the pilot, puts that big jet into a bit of a starboard turn, gradually building up to 4 or 5 Gs. Your G-suit inflates, and that familiar but unique feeling of pressure builds up on your legs and abdomen. You unconsciously and instinctively tighten your leg muscles, pressing down on the floorboard of the cockpit, and you tighten your stomach muscles to work on keeping that blood flowing to your head, lest the G forces drain that big lump of gray matter on top of your shoulders of the blood needed to keep it awake and alert.
The sun is headed down, and you’ve been in the air for an hour or two. You’ve probably plugged into a tanker once – or twice – and watching those fuel tapes and calculating what you have (fuel on board) compared to what you need (fuel on deck) is an ongoing, never ending exercise.
In the middle of all this, your head itches from sweat, your backside is sore from a seat pad that is made by the lowest bidder, you missed evening chow because of some detail that had to be attended to with your OTHER job (“collateral duty”, its amusingly called), when you pull your head out of the cockpit and see the sunset. Colors, reds and oranges and the darkening blues of the approaching night skies meet your eyes. Yeah, these are the moments that make this whole thing priceless.
This was posted on one of the social media sites, and I think it is too good just to disappear. With Pinch’s permission, here it is.