So after the events of The Vladivostok Thing, World War III basically went poorly for the Soviets in my World War III. How bad? Well long story short, the United States and NATO committed to a counteroffensive that speared into East Germany, Poland and Hungary rose up in rebellion, and most of the 1st and 2nd Line Soviet forces got annihilated west of Warsaw.
*pause* No really, this was almost all written out. In various electronic files. There was a whole timeline and everything in addition to a complete novel, about a dozen short stories, and a whole lot of stuff that didn’t get done. Just about every few weeks when I was in high school and into West Point, there’d be another item I’d start when I was waiting in line or bored. Most of those notebooks are lost to the sands of time or, if I have found them, they’re still in long hand because I don’t see the point of typing them up.
However, in a few cases, stuff has survived in electronic form. The following short won me third price in the 1993-1994 West Point Cadet Fiction Open. Looking back at it now, I realize I made a multitude of sins. But, hey, that was $75 I took home. Of course, I also had to read the whole thing, cursing and all, in front of the Superintendent of cadets. You know, the three star who could banish one to Siberia…or Fort Drum. (Not really. I think.) Ever dropped an F-bomb in front of a flag officer? Yeah…
Anyway, this will be two parts. While better than my last one, it’s still a definite “If you ever need to know how far you’ve come…”-work. Commentary at the end:
By James Young
The Third World War had been going on for six months. The forces of the Commonwealth of Independent Soviet States had been pushed back to the frontiers of the ex-U.S.S.R. The nations of N.A.T.O. were on the verge of being victorious, their strategic bombing campaign of the past two months starting to have effect of the Soviet forces at the front.
But the war was not over yet. The dying continued at the front, up to five thousand men dying a day. The strategic campaign continued, young men and women of all the warring nations continuing to die in the air. The only solution in sight seemed to fight the way to Moscow and rip the heart out of the Soviet government, no matter what the cost in lives.
Lieutenant General Cassin Downes, hero of Hamburg, Frankfurt, and the defense of Germany, thought there was a better way. He felt that the strategic air campaing needed to be stepped up another notch. So far, the allied bombers had stayed away from Moscow. Cassin felt that the Soviet leaders did not yet see that they would be ultimately defeated. A massive strike to Moscow would accomplish this purpose, not to mention the fact that it would draw up the remainder of the Soviet Air Force to fight.
Cassin thought long and hard about this decision. The historical precedent was not good for this sort of action. In 1940, when Hitler had switched from attacking fighter airfields to attacking London, he had succeeded in drawing up the entire RAF. He also succeeded in giving the beleagured fighting force a break from constant air attacks and scrambles on their airfields. The Luftwaffe, in the opinion of many historians, had lost the battle, if not the entire war, right there.
Even worse was the fact that the Russian leaders, after having their capital city turned to rubble, might feel that it was time to go to the nuclear option and end all life on this Earth.
The final decision was on Cassin’s shoulders. President Clinton had given him the go ahead to do whatever was necessary. He had a blank check, as long as he ended the dying and the suffering, and let the world try to build a better community from the ashes and rubble of the old.
Cassin was rightly known as a man of decision. On December 5, 1994, he gave the orders for Operation Sodom, the mass bombing of Moscow. The B-52s were to be loaded with a mix of high-explosive 1,000lb bombs to smash the buildings into rubble, cluster minelets to deter firemen, and napalm to start fires. Cassin hoped it would start a firestorm that would send a singular message to the Soviet leaders that the war was over.
Enter the two protagonists of this story. Commander James Loftman, United States Navy, is currently the leading ace of N.A.T.O. and its allies with 57 kills. He flies the F-14D+, a massive upgrade of the original F-14 Tomcat of Top Gun fame. The units commands are VF-41 and VF-84, the Black Aces and Jolly Rogers, the two crack fighter units he has commanded through the entire war. He is to be commander of the escort fighters for this massive strike.
Colonel Ivan Ilvanyich is commander of the 127th Guards Fighter Regiment, the “Eagle Killers.” This crack unit flies the MiG-29K Fulcrum, the deadliest fighters in the Soviet inventory. This regiment is one of the few regiments to have survived the entire war without crippling losses. The greatest MiG aces still alive are in this unit, no man having less than 5 kills. Currently, after the bloody battles of December 3rd, the unit is down to 14 aircraft. The Soviet government has entrusted Ivan Ilvanyich to command the fighters left that will be forced to face the next American attack. His orders are to forget defending the target, but to rip apart as many B-52s as possible. Only 325 of the big bombers remain serviceable in the European theater. If his pilots can destroy sixty-five of them, this may convince Cassin Downes to cease the bombing offensive after losing twenty percent of the force over Murmansk on the 3rd.
The duel between these two men is already legendary. They have clashed once, after Ilvanyich had shot down and killed James’s younger brother Randall over Vladivostok, the base of the Soviet Pacific Fleet. The battle had been indecisive–an errant Soviet missile had knocked down Ilvanyich. Loftman had come close to shooting down the parachuting Soviet pilot, but had broken off at the last moment.
Three weeks after this battle, over Murmansk, the Guards and Jolly Rogers had clashed again. In this blizzard of air fighting, Ilvanyich had killed the Loftman’s best friend, Shorty Joghnson, after Joghnson had killed Ilvanyich’s nephew, Dimitry. This combat had lasted six minutes (most dogfights only last thirty seconds), but Joghnson was not a Loftman and had been shot down in flames. His RIO had ejected, but Joghnson had rode the Tomcat in.
A clash between the two fighter pilots was fully expected on this day. Loftman had already ordered his pilots to call out if they started to engage Ilvanyich. He wanted the man for himself. Ilvanyich had told his pilots to mob Loftman if they found him, waiting until he got there to finish the job.
This short story begins at 1000 hours, when the B-52 stream crosses the Russian frontier and the fight begins.
Amazon cursed, looking over her radar. In all the time the woman had been flying as James Loftman’s RIO she had never seen jamming this thick.
“I can’t get a lock on them! We’re being jammed too heavily!” she said, shaking her red maned head.
James Loftman cursed. With the enemy fighters closing at M.A.C.H. 1, they wouldn’t have any time for a Phoenix ultra-long range shot. By the time their radar burned through the Soviet jamming the MiGs and Sukhois would be in their jockstraps. He shoved the throttle forward against the stops. The two Pratt & Whitneys screamed their fury and shoved the Tomcat II forward. If the enemy wanted to get in close, that was fine with him. He was carrying six Sidewinder short-range missiles and the massive GA\U-8 Avenger cannon on his centerline. The 30mm cannon was designed for A-10 Warthogs, the tank-killing aircraft of the Air Force. It worked great against tanks. It simply disintegrated aircraft.
“Aren’t we going to fire home on jammers?!” Amazon asked, feeling the kick in her back from the 125,000lbs of thrust to her rear.
“Nope! They want a knife fight, and we’ve got numbers. Just run the countermeasures!” James shouted, reaching up and dropping his goggles. He adjusted his 6′ 6″ frame in his seat and gripped the stick, hoping the jammers built into his aircraft and those of the EA-6 Prowlers behind them would keep the Russians from getting off a radar missile shoot of their own.
Ivan Ilvanyich allowed himself a small smile. Loftman and the hot-blooded pilots of the U.S.N. first wave weren’t even trying to fire home on jam missiles, but simply wading in to the attack. The Americans figured his eighty-nine fighters to be the ill-trained students that had been appearing over the Central Front as of late. Well, they were in for a nasty shock. Every instructor, ace, and experienced pilot he could find he had put in this first group of fighters, to open the way for the inexperienced pilots massing in the second wave behind them. The ninety-six F-14Ds were in for a nasty surprise. Ivan began chuckling as he imagined the trap drawing closed.
Ivan didn’t even bother glancing at his radar. He knew it would be covered in white snow from the American’s better jamming. It was a good thing he had talked the Moscow air-defense commander into letting him use some of the limited electrical power for ground based jammers. This had kept the damn Tomcats and their Phoenix missiles from decimating his fighters at more than a hundred miles range. His blue eyes took on a gleeful tint as he thought of what he would do to the enemy fighters with his eight AA-11 Archers. Ivan Ilvanyich might die on that day, but he would sell his life dearly. Very dearly.
James armed the Sidewinders, the Tomcat’s internal computer checking weapons’ status. He got five symbols on his HUD, the small screen that was just on the inside edge of his cockpit. He reached down and flicked a small switch, jettisoning the defective Sidewinder.
The two forces sighted each other at eleven miles. Pilots quickly locked-on and fired their all-aspect missiles, then turned and began evading the enemy’s. In the first mass exchange, twelve Tomcats and fifteen MiGs died.
The U.S.N. pilots considered themselves the best in the world. The one mission they were supposed to have in life was to land on a bouncing postage stamp in the middle of the sea. They were trained to a high level, even the newer men and women. Without even having to think about it, they seperated into two-plane groups called sections, mutually supporting each other. Only after this did they turn to go about their current business, which was hunting everything flying with a red star upon it.
Ivan turned after a slow-moving Tomcat. The inexperienced pilot had climbed to avoid an Archer shot, losing airspeed and thus energy to turn. It was a simple kill.
His wingman had killed the American’s wingman with a missile shot from the side, the two Tomcats never sighting the incoming Fulcrums.
The Tomcat pilot put his nose down and dived, rolling out of the turn. Ivan followed, the AA-11 on his wing following wherever he looked with the helmet sight. The Tomcat was meat on the table. He fired.
The missile screamed off the rail, accelerating past the speed of sound quickly and arrowing toward the now accelerating Tomcat. Its seeker head found the paradise of the two hot, afterburning engines. The missile’s 33lb warhead exploded twenty feet from the Tomcat’s rear, its metal casing expanding in a storm of white-hot fragments. The Tomcat’s right engine exploded, flashing into the fighter’s fuel tanks. The Tomcat and its two man crew exploded in a brief fireball.
James Loftman rolled in behind the Su-27 Flanker. The Russian pilot rolled over on his back, pulling back in an outside loop. James followed, the twin canards (small winglets) and vectored engines of his fighter spinning his nose up through the horizon. He felt the G-forces tugging at his body, and the edge of his vision starting to go grey. But he cut inside the Flanker’s turn, cutting the range to a few hundred yards. He flicked a small switch on his HOTAS, bringing up the cannon sight. The pipper was a little bit high and to the left of his target, as the Flanker turned hard to try and avoid him.
With a kick of the rudders and a hard push on the stick he rolled inside of the Soviet’s turn, the pipper finding a resting place right between the twin tails of the Soviet fighter. James pulled back a little bit further, the pipper now resting in the middle of the fuselage.
“Goodbye,” he said softly, firing a long burst of 30mm tungsten-carbide shells. The solid shot cored the enemy fighter dead center, ripping it apart. It fell out of the sky, nothing more than junk after the Avenger’s high velocity fire.
“MiG-29 bolting at six o’clock!” Amazon shouted. James reefed the fighter around, turning towards the enemy fighter.
“He’s headed for the bombers,” James said, his voice cold and expressionless.
“Roger that. Flanker at ten o’clock high!”
James forgot the MiG-29 that was headed for the bomber and turned towards the enemy Su-27 that was coming in from his left. The Russian pilot was turning to pursue four Tomcats that had just cancelled the check of two MiG-29 Fulcrums. He hadn’t checked his tail. James moved the switch on the stick again, as Amazon checked their rear. The Flanker was at five miles, well within Sidewinder range.
“Break Sundowner Flight!” he shouted over the radio, seeing he wouldn’t be there in time to keep the Flanker from shooting. The four F-14C’s broke hard right, as he locked onto the Su-27. The Flanker pilot, seeing his attack was ruined, reversed and started to come back at James, trying to escape.
An F-14D in front of him would be the last surprise the enemy pilot would ever have. A left-wing Sidewinder leaped off the rail and slammed into the right intake of the Flanker. The fighter disinegrated in mid-air.
James turned away from the flaming wreckage and went ahunting. It was time for someone else to become his next kill.
The tactical net had become a cacophony of fighter calls and cries for help, as Ilvanyich’s second wing of two hundred fighters slammed into the main bomber stream. James could tell this was going to be a hard fight, and turned back towards the main bomber stream to help out the close escort of F-16s.
Ivan kicked the rudder, watching the two F-14s head for the ground in flames. It had been ridiculously simple for him to come up and surprise the two fighters. Both had died without a single maneuver.
The furball had calmed down around him, and was not such a mass of whirling aircraft. The allied fighters were starting to gain the upper hand with their mutually supporting teams and better training, but the issue was not decided yet. The dying had gone about even for both sides, the deaths of individual crews simply more numbers for the statisticians at the end of the war. The U.S. Navy pilots, veterans all, would mark this as their toughest fight ever.
An even more intense battle was occurring around the 325 B-52 Stratofortresses. The N.A.T.O. close escort, numbering around one hundred fighters, had been overwhelmed by the deluge of Soviets, and were having enough trouble defending themselves, much less the bombers.
The bomber commander was screaming for reinforcements from the front lines, which were only three hundred miles behind the bombers’ current positions. The N.A.T.O. fighters circling in this position had turned and started to rush towards the battle, but Frontal Aviation units had begun slowing them down. Best estimates were that it’d be at least fifteen minutes before the fighters arrived.
Fifteen minutes is a long time in air warfare.
What I Would Do Differently
1.) The massive data dump at the beginning. Writing now, I would attack that one of two ways. The first way would be to have a faux newscast or newspaper article. This would introduce the reader to most of the secondary characters without having to read through what is basically the Star Wars title scroll on steroids. The second? Dialogue between characters as they’re getting the final briefing or prepping for the flight. The latter is a bit trickier, as it’s touch making sure things don’t sound contrived.
2.) There are a few places where I don’t explain the hardware, yet it’d be fairly easy to. In other places, I explain too much and it derails the story. If I were to go full book-sized (not gonna happen, thank you very much), I’d probably add a glossary or some line drawings at the end.
3.) I’d also wargame this out. Fifteen minutes? Ha! That’s not just a long time, that’s an eternity in modern air warfare. This is where research, research, research comes in. May 10, 1972 was probably the third or fourth largest furball in modern history. From the first USAF F-4 merge to sea air rescue was maybe an hour. Lesson learned.