This post will conclude the Vladivostok thing. For those who missed the first installment–I once had an entire universe in which the Cold War went hot. Through various moves, direct action, and movement through multiple versions of Word, most of this first novel up and disappeared. This is very much a rough draft, and I’m never going back to finish it, but I’ve put it here for critique and to show my evolution as a writer. Three biggest things I noticed doing a quick read through:
1.) Show, not tell? Yeah, that rule exists for a reason. Much older James Young was cringing as he read what his teenaged self had gone and done. Holy drawn out expositions, Batman!
2.) I had no concept of the tanker support necessary to conduct an operation this massive back in 1994. Even with a far larger Air Force, this entire operation might have bordered on the “impossible” with a simultaneous war occurring in Europe.
3.) Just thinking all of the UCMJ issues that would be caused by pilots in the same chain of command deciding to date. Yeaaaaaaahhh…way too many Top Gun wannabe there.
Section III:Hades and Beyond
Luke walked around the A-6 one more time, checking it over once again. The jet was pristine, having just been painted with a fresh coat of naval white. The squadron insignia was painted brightly on the tail, standing out in stark relief. The Boomers, VA-165, were ready to sortie forth once more.
The armorers’ trucks were making their way down the line of hangars towards their aircraft. Luke could see the large HOBOS guided weapons and AGM-84E SLAM missiles mounted on the war wagon, their safety pins fluttering in the wind.
He could not believe that they were about to engage the enemy once again. He was amazed that he didn’t have some deep seated fear of facing Russian guns and missiles again. His inner calm was disconcerting. It was if his subconscious knew what was coming but had neglected to tell his conscious self. He would have to live with it as long as it didn’t effect him later.
Kari was in the cockpit running a systems check on their attack computer. The weapons system was showing all systems green, as were their internal avionics. The Intruder was ready and willing.
The armorer trucks finally made it to their squadron. Luke watched as the armorers lifted three large 2,000lb optically-guided bombs onto each Intruder. These were followed by four SLAM missiles. Finally, a pair of Sidearm short-range anti-radar missiles were put on the outer wing stations. A fuel tank went on the centreline of each jet, giving them loitering capability.
The Boomers had been given one of the toughest targets in Vladivostok harbor. The carrier Varyag had been present at the Battle of Wake. Her fighters had savaged the American escort and did a number on quite a few attack aircraft that had attempted to get close to her deck. They had then escorted the Russian carrier strike on the U.S. Fleet.
The fighters weren’t the carrier’s only defenses. Massed short-range, 23 and 30mm cannon were capable of putting up an umbrella of steel. Her point-defense missiles could pick approaching bombers right off the waves, or shoot down opposing missiles before they pierced the vessel’s side. In the open ocean, this vessel would be a very hard kill, her task force preventing many weapons from getting to her. Hopefully, inside the harbor, she would be an easier prey. Luke and company were about to find out.
So this is how it all ends, Isaac thought to himself.
The confidence he felt looking over his squadron somehat belied his feeling of dread. Colonel Collins had sent him good replacements to recoup his losses, bringing him up to a complement of twenty-four Strike Eagles.The forty- eight men and women under his command were the best in the business. With this force, Isaac was sure they could knock out the bridges at Artem and Ussuryisk. Eight of the Strike Eagles would be carrying AGM-130s and SLAM missiles. The other sixteen would fly Wild Weasel support and escort.
Isaac was arming his aircraft with six cluster bombs, four HARM missiles, and six 1,000lb bombs for the Wild Weasel mission. Two AMRAAM and two Sidewinders gave him some air-to-air capability. The remainder of his flight was armed in the same way. Tyrone’s flight was also flying the Wild Weasel mission.
The strike package, consisting of Josh’s and Jake’s flights, carried four AGM-130s and six SLAMs apiece. They had the ability to put a serious hurt on the bridges and the surrounding area. For self-defence they carried two Shrike missiles.
Patricia came over, her helmet in her arms. Todd, who had been standing beside Isaac, suddenly found a reason to absent himself. This was more than likely going to be a tearful parting. Neither one of them was happy about the high command decision to take Patricia’s flight off of close escort for Isaac.
“I guess this is what we came for, Princess,” Isaac said lightheartedely.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Patricia replied. Both of them fell silent. The silence dragged on for several moments, as Patricia fiddled with her helmet.
“You know I’m not very good at this,” Isaac said finally.
“Obviously neither am I,” Patricia replied with a smile. She finally looked up in his eyes. Isaac could see tears starting to form.
“I love you. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Good luck, Patricia,” Isaac said in a rush.
“I love you also, Isaac Young. Take care of yourself,” Patricia said, gently touching him on the arm. Isaac reached out and embraced her, kissing her hard. He let her go, squeezing her hand and turning to board his fighter.
Patricia turned and headed for her own flightline.
“I can’t believe you kissed her,” Todd said, as he sat down in the pilot’s seat. “That’s going to get you in a lot of shit if someone saw it.”
“Todd, if I get back from this mission, they can court-martial my black ass. However, until then, I am not going to worry about it. I love her.”
“It’s about time you got lucky with somebody,” Todd said, smiling.
Jack climbed up in his Harrier, finally ready. Two 1,000lb bombs hung on his inside pylons, their Paveway seeker heads almost guaranteeing a hit if guided correctly. The next pylons over carried a pair of ALARM missiles apiece. The anti-radar weapons were very deadly, especially in the self-protection role. They retained the ability to loiter over the target, swinging under a parachute, if the transmitter shut down for a few moments.
Jack had been placed in command of 809 Squadron after the strike films and combat reports had all been turned in. Though still holding the official rank of a Flight Lieutenant, all agreed that he was the best suited and most experienced pilot remaining. The papers for his promotion were already in the works.
The losses of the Balikpapan mission had been quite high. Six Harriers had been shot down or so badly damaged that they had to be pushed over the side. Only two pilots had been pulled out of the shark-infested waters. Of the Australian F-111Cs, three had been blown out of the sky.
In exchange for the aircraft, the British and Australians had wrecked a refinery and airfield and sunk three vessels, two tankers and a destroyer. The gains had outweighed the costs, but that was of no consolation to Jack. Two of the three pilots had been close friends. The stupid squadron commander wasn’t even missed in his book.
The Nassau had left them after flying upon the reinforcements. The American made jets had a few differences than the British Harriers, but it was of no consequence. Their pilots were fully trained in the jets and could fly them just as well as anyone else.
Jack paused a moment to look off the Illustrious‘s port bow. The sea was full of ships.
The largest concentration of naval airpower since World War II was cruising in formation with the Illustrious. Her sister ship, Invincible and the French carriers Clemenceau and Foch were the only NATO representatives in the large task force. Their small complements would not have been able to put much hurt on the Soviet fleet, and surely would not have been able to repulse a counterattack by the same fleet.
The eight carriers of the United States Navy more than made up for this deficiency in striking power. The George Washington, Carl Vinson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt,and Ranger were unblooded vessels with untried air groups that had something to prove. The America had been present at Wake, and her mainly new air group had a tradition to build upon.
The Enterprise and Eisenhower were arguably the two most dangerous ships in any navy. Their two air groups had been flying combat ops since day one of the Third World War, being almost as experienced as most European pilots. The group was coming off a very bloody strike on India, when many fighters had been hit and knocked down. The group had made good its losses, and these new hands had been trained to a high pitch in the short time since the attack. With the current highest-scoring ace in any NATO or allied country and the highest scoring USMC ace as squadron commanders, the groups were well commanded and capable of wreaking a large amount of havoc. The Russians were about to be very sorry once the attack started.
Jack finished strapping in, a deck hand helping him. He watched the deck officer, following the man’s directions to the catapult. The officer helped line his Sea Harrier up. He then proceeded to do his dance, then finally dropped and pointed off the bow.
The Harrier was thrusted off the short ski jump deck. Jack pulled back on the stick, climbing slowly into the sky. The Harriers, having the shortest legs of any attack aircraft, were the last to launch. Jack immediately turned his nose for Vladivostok. His wingman, launched just a few moments later, followed suit. The rest of 809 Squadron was catapulted off a few moments later. The group was ready for battle.
Sea of Japan
Amee looked over the group of F-16Cs under her command and smiled a death-head’s smile. The twenty-four Falcons were ready and willing to do battle on this day. The last few days of flying strikes into the teeth of North Korean fighters and other associate actions to make it appear that the Fifth Air Force was girding for an offensive had really thinned out their numbers. A couple of Guard units had been forced to send aircraft to make good losses. Things were getting real bad on the pilot side. Several had been recovered by Air Sea Rescue, but many, many more had fallen into enemy hands or rode their planes into the drink.
Fortunately, no more of Amee’s pilots had died. A new pilot had arrived to replace Checkmate, so her flight was back up to strength. The last few days had been scoreless for her, but that would probably change since they had been given the air-to-air mission for this strike. Four AMRAAM missiles hung under the wings. Two Sidewinders were on each wingtip, and the 20mm cannon was loaded to full capacity. Amee knew she would probably come away with a kill by the end of the day.
Bob pulled up alongside, waggling his wings. Amee could see the grin on his face in her mind, even though the lower half of his face was covered by his oxygen mask. Knight lived for battle. His official kill score was low, but Amee didn’t know how she would’ve scored half of her kills without Bob’s section flying backup.
The attack wing was flying under EMCON, none of their radars or radios emitting anything. The group was circling around Tokyo, forming up quickly. The naval attack force would hit five minutes earlier than the Allied attack from Japan. Therefore, surprise really didn’t matter for this attack wing. When they arrived, everyone would be awake and waiting.
Still, for cosmetic purposes, the group was appearing as if they were attacking North Korea. To backup this supposition on the Russians’ part they would fly within seventy-five miles of the North Korean coast. In order to prevent the North Koreans from intercepting the force, the ROK Air Force and those PACAF units based in Korea would fly a maximum effort fighter sweep north, retaining only twenty F-4Es for air defense.
The Russians would probably scramble fighters just in case, sending them south as reinforcements. This would be good for the strike, as it would suck most of the Russian aircraft too far to the south to stop the naval strike. It might mean a large number of Air Force aircraft didn’t make it, but this would be made up by the higher number of naval aircraft that made it.
Amee finished her lazy turn, the squadron arraying itself behind her. The F-16s were middle cover, being stacked between F-14s and F-15s up top and Mirage 2000s and CF-18s at low level. Five hundred and seventy-six aircraft were flying from the islands of Japan. The advance guard of one hundred eighty fighters would probably smash through the combat air patrol over the harbor with ease.
The strike wing was finally finished forming up. Amee nodded her head to herself, and increased her speed to five hundred knots. The fighters had an appointment to keep.
The first shots of Operation Apache proper were not fired by any aircraft in the strike forces. Instead, they came courtesy of three B-1B Lancers carrying sixteen conventionally armed AGM-86B missiles apiece. The forty-eight weapons were targeted on the long range search radars arrayed to the north of the harbor. The one thousand pound warheads were fused to explode one hundred feet above the installations.
All of the missiles functioned properly, being launched at five hundred miles range. At 0545 they arrived at their targets with several large thunderclaps of explosions.
The detonations brought several alarms into screaming wakefulness.
Ivan cursed, throwing his covers off his bed. He sprinted for his gear, grabbing it and heading for the flightline. The rest of the regiment was following suit, dashing for their MiG-29s. The fighters were already prepped and ready for combat, fuelled and loaded with the standard air-to-air load.
Ivan put on his G-suit, zipping up the uniform as he ran out of the door. Right before he headed for a fighter he caught himself. He was still grounded. His orders were to remain on the ground no matter what. That included any alerts…
“Fuck them,” Ivan said aloud, and finished dashing for his jet. They could shoot him later. He’d be damned if he was going to stay on the ground during what appeared to be a major Allied attack.
“Tighten it up boys. It’s party time,” the calm and kind of distracted voice of James Loftman crackled over his headphones.
Josh nodded his assent. He looked back over his squadron. VF-2, the Bounty Hunters. This group, like most of the other squadrons formed from the remnants of The Battle of Wake Island, was a mix of old hands and young rookies. However, Josh felt that he had the best rookies and they were about to exact a heavy price from the enemy.
“This is Achilles Two-Zero to Escort Lead. You’ve got company coming out of the base like bees out of a hive. The bogey count’s up to nine eight, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping. Crater One-Zero, you are cleared to begin radiating,” the voice of an AWACS controller crackled over the net.
“Roger that Achilles. We are cleared to fire upon said targets, correct?” Loftman asked cooly.
“This is Skull Lead to all fighters. We will fire by unit, with Skull firing first and designating, on my mark.”
The dance was about to begin.
The second act of Operation Apache was the jamming of the Russian fighters’ air-to-air radars. This was the specific job of eight EA-6B Prowler aircraft. These aircraft were outfitted in the full soft ECM warload, not carrying any HARM or Shrike missiles. The four jamming pods mounted under their wings were quite capable of turning the radar screens of the ninety-eight bogeys already scrambled white with snow.
In each aircraft, a tactical officer reached forward and threw a switch. The battle was now joined.
The salvo of AIM-54A and -54C missiles lit up the night with bright flashes. Each F-14C&D+ had been carrying four missiles at least. Each had a range of 90+ miles. The RIOs in the backseat of each Tomcat had launched onto four targets, one for each missile. The original salvo had four hundred and fifty missiles involved in it, targeted on one hundred and twenty Russian aircraft.
The Russians’ own ECM began operating at this moment, as the pilots began juking, turning radically, and diving. The powerful AWG-9 radars cut through the majority of it, but not all of it. Several missiles went ballistic and detonated early, having lost their original targets. Chaff and radical maneuvers defeated several other missiles. However, fifty-eight of the Phoenixes did contact with a Russian fighter. The MiGs and Sukhois were annihilated by the large, one hundred and twenty plus pound warheads. Many of the pilots did not eject from their mortally wounded aircraft. Fragments of the aircraft rained down into the dark ocean.
Ivan looked behind him, fear evident in his face. His wingman had simply disappeared in a dirty brown ball of fire and smoke. Fragments had pelted his MiG but had not done any serious damage. His radar screen was still mostly whited out, and he had no idea where the enemy was. The Mainstay orbiting over Vladivostok was as blinded as the fighters. If the enemy force closed within a hundred miles of the AWACS’s position, they would be able to see through the fog of ECM. Until then, the fighters were on their own.
“All Eagle elements, go to afterburners!” Ilvanyich barked. He could hear acknowledgements, but they sounded as if they came from the far end of a tunnel. The Americans were jamming the radios also! Ivan shoved his throttle forward to its maximum, the twin engines rumbling behind him. The radar screen suddenly became clearer, the mighty pulse-Doppler radar finally finding its targets. Ivan began punching off AA-10 Alamos, as the enemy fired off their AMRAAM in reply.
The missile exchange at thirty miles range led to the first losses of the U.S.N.. Twelve F-14s were blown out of the sky in exchange for twenty more MiGs and Sukhois.
“Skulls and Aces, continue through over the harbor. Bounty Hunters, Tomcatters, Swordsmen, and Challengers, the bad guys are yours! Rest of you, close escort!” Loftman barked.
Josh nodded, turning hard towards the incoming enemy fighters. The odds were just about even, both sides down to just IR missiles and cannon. It was up to the four squadrons to cut the enemy fighters down in single combat, while their other cohorts interposed themselves between the enemy fighters and the bombers.
The two groups closed hard and fast, exchanging missiles head-on. A further eight Russians and two Tomcats died as a result of these low-percentage shots. The Tomcat crews punched out, only to die of exposure in the cold Pacific seas.
Josh saw a Fulcrum passing below him, turning hard after it. The Russian pilot saw him at the last moment and dived, turning hard away from Josh and dumping flares.
Josh knew that his heavier F-14C could not hold a turn long with the Fulcrum, but he dived after anyway. The Russian pilot suddenly snapped his nose back up to the level, rolling hard inverted and popping back towards Josh. Josh pulled up, and the two were suddenly canopy to canopy in a rolling scissors. Josh rolled around his axis, trying to keep the MiG in sight. The Fulcrum could outclimb his plane, and Josh watched with widening eyes as the enemy pilot gained seperation and suddenly turned further towards his tail.
A streak of smoke suddenly terminated on the Fulcrum’s left wing. The fighter lurched into a nose high attitude, starting to spin immediately as its left aerilon was hit. The canopy popped off the fighter, the pilot exiting into the slipstream.
The F-14C that had fired the shot joined up on his left wing. Josh turned and reentered the fray, looking for more targets.
All around him, aircraft were engaged in dogfights. Right before his eyes, a MiG-23 was riddled with 20mm gatling fire and exploded. The Tomcat that had done the deed had about five seconds to live before a big AA-10 heat-seeker turned it into a hurtling junk. Josh saw the Su-27 that had fired the shot and went after it, lighting afterburners. The Flanker pilot saw him and turned into him, Josh pulled up sharply, arcing around in a perfect Immelmann. The Flanker pilot had started to follow, but Josh’s new wingman had started to drop onto his tail. The Russian wisely decided to dive away, gaining speed and seperation.
“Fulcrum at three o’clock!” his RIO shouted. Josh turned his head just in time to see the twinkling of the MiG’s cannon.
The fifty round burst walked right through his Tomcat, sawing it in half. The fuel tanks exploded like twin suns in the dawn sky. Neither Josh or his RIO had a chance to eject.
Ivan turned after the American’s stunned wingman. The man reacted too sluggishly as he tried to turn into the attack, and Ivan squeezed off two AA-11 Archers. One misguided, turning after some unknown target. The second guided straight into the Tomcat’s inlets, exploding just inside the intake. The metal fragments and energy from the missile’s warhead wrecked the turbine blades in the fighter’s engine. The jet became instantly uncontrollable. The canopy flew off, first the RIO then the pilot rocketing out of the jet.
Ivan turned away from the falling jet, looking all around him. The Flanker that had been the original target joined up, and they headed for an already smoking Vladivostok.
The Wild Weasels of the strike from the sea descended on Vladivostok harbor with a veangance. The Naval and Marine pilots had been provided with maps and photographs of their targets, then thoroughly briefed on their targets’ capabilities. These men had been assigned the job of killing the most threatening SAM and missiles sites, since they would be first on target. The Japanese wing Weasels were to pick up whatever these men missed.
The first blood went to the SAM defenses. A SA-11 site ringed by two ZSU-30-2 gun vehicles locked onto and engaged a flight of Wild Weasels descending on an SA-12 site. The F/A-18s ignored the offending site, knowing it was someone else’s prey. It was a fatal mistake.
Five missiles flashed from their launchers. Three Hornets disappeared in dirty brown flashes and brief waterspouts. The fourth Hornet made its release on its target, the salvo of Maverick missiles ripping apart the SAM vehicles and attending radars.
The gunners aboard the naval ships and ashore chose this moment to get into the act. Radars began coming online, seeking out these attacking birds of prey. In return, the remaining twenty-four Prowlers began jamming and HARMing these radars. The Wild Weasels were not bothered unduly by the gunfire that devolved into barrage fire. It was the SAM radars that were still on-line that were the problem.
The first wave of the Japan Wing arrived almost undetected. The fighters of this group had ceased radiating suddenly, and the EF-111A Raven aircraft accompanying it had begun to jam all radars and radios. It was only when the twenty-four F-14Cs that comprised part of the lead escort locked onto the two An-74 Mainstays orbiting the big base that someone knew something was up. By then, it was too late.
Three Phoenixes apiece struck the Mainstays in the midst of their efforts to vector in more fighters. The reinforcements rushing towards Vladivostok from the collection of Soviet bases in the surrounding area suddenly had no guidance. The pilots continued flying into the cauldron however, feeling that they would do some good.
The Allied fighter pilots turned eagerly to do battle, as the attack boys began their runs.
Amee wrenched her stick over to avoid colliding with the Japanese F-15J that was cutting across her nose. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the MiG-23 chasing it and reversed course, the heavy G’s pushing against her chest. The lights started to grow dim.
It will all be worth it if we get behind the bastard, Amee thought dimly. Just as her vision was going totally black she saw the single engine of the Flogger. The pilot was in full burner trying to keep up with the Eagle in front of him. Amee heard the growl of her port wingtip Sidewinder and fired the missile. The AIM-9 streaked off the rail and found its prey, blasting off the Flogger’s tail. The swing-wing fighter belched black smoke and fell off on its side towards the harbor below.
However there were many, many more where that came from. If the attack boys didn’t start their work soon, the escorts were going to be hard-pressed to defend them.
Luke juked up and down, trying to present a very difficult target to the Soviet gunners as they tried to hose down his aircraft. With most of the fleet in the anchorage, the volume of fire was terrific. Tracers whizzed by the canopy incredibly fast. Their Intruder had already taken two minor hits.
A stream of tracers from a Udaloy-class destroyer suddenly mated with one of his ten Intruders. The A-6 disappeared in a pyrotechnic display, debris falling into the harbor.
“Find that son-of-a-bitch fast!” Luke barked, as an F/A-18 dived down to Maverick the offending destroyer. The Hornet punched off three missiles, aiming then at the source of the tracers. The destroyer fired its two 3.9-guns in reply, the weapons banging out their staccato tatoo. The gun crews were obviously very good or very lucky. At least two shells struck the Hornet. Its missiles, however, obviously hit some bunkerage or something flammable, for a black cloud of smoke with an orange base began to bubble from the destroyer’s hull.
The rest of the anti-shipping aircraft were descending on their prey like hawks. Luke saw a Buccaneer descending on the Sverdlov-class cruiser, the Zhdanov, firing Martel and A.S. 30L missiles as it dived. Tracers reached up from the cruiser to meet the attack. The Buccaneer was hit, mortally wounded. Luke saw the pilot consciously put his nose down and follow his missiles into the side of the ship. The cruiser heeled over sharply, smoking heavily from bow to midships.
“SAM! SAM! SAM!” Kari shouted. Luke saw the incoming missile and jettisoned flares and chaff, turning into it. The SA-N-5 was decoyed away by the hot heat of the flares and exploded far behind.
One of the Intruders behind Luke, piloted by Lt. Horace Cruthers, a survivor of Wake Island, was not so lucky. Two SAMs met at the Intruder’s fuselage. Amazingly, the craft continued flying long enough for Horace and his B/N, Ens. Jack Tate to eject.
“I see the bitch, eleven o’clock! The bastards moved her! She’s just outside that floating dry dock!” Luke shouted to Kari.
A storm of fire was pouring from the shore and the carrier. Missiles were screaming off their rails, as the ship’s powerful radars began burning through the combined ECM of the task force at their close range. Two more A-6s disappeard in spheres of flame. The carrier was at the end of a long gauntlet of ships. Shells ricocheted off the water, skipping back into the air at the oncoming Intruders. The tracers were beginning to get uncomfortably close.
“This is Boomer One-One! I could use some Weasel support!” Luke shouted, jinking.
“Ask for no more, Boomer One-One!” a cocky voice shouted over the net. Five F-4G fighter bombers dived towards the carrier, HARM missiles streaking from under their wings. They were greeted happily by the Russian gunners. The Weasel leader was a brave man, following his missile’s up with a cluster bomb attack. The twin AK-630s on the stern of the Varyag made this incredibly costly. Only two aircraft pulled up and away from the carrier. However, the cluster strike silenced the heaviest of the gunfire from the ship.
Kari was busy aiming the SLAM missiles, choosing her spots on FLIR. She chose the area just under the flight deck as her points of aim. Even if they did not kill the carrier, they would at least wound her.
At six miles range she fired off the missiles. Three of the four functioned normally. One, however, simply continued on into the dark waters of Vladivostok.
The fourteen missiles that guided or launched correctly range gave the carrier little time to respond. Only one was claimed by CIWS fire. The others found homes in the carrier’s vulnerable side.
Two weapons slammed into the port elevator. The combined explosives buckled the platform, leaving it stuck in the up position. Another four weapons marched down the flight deck, opening large craters in the surface and starting severe fires in the hangar deck. Two more weapons hit the ship in the island, clearing the bridge and starting a fire here also.
The final six weapons buried themselves in the carrier’s hull. The damage they did was serious, but not fatal.
“Time to get rid of excess luggage,” Kari said. Luke pulled up hard and fast in the classic toss-bomb envelope. The three 2,000lb bombs seperated cleanly, arcing towards the Varyag. The other three A-6s that were all that was left followed suit. A large-caliber shell fired from their left holed another Intruder, blasting it apart, but only after it had released its bombs.
The carrier’s CIWS weapons began blazing away at the large, FLIR guided bombs, the cannon shells ripping apart three. Two bombs went sailing over the Varyag, impacting fifty feet on the other side. One fell short. One failed to detonate. That still left five.
The first bomb hit astern, ten feet above the waterline. It penetrated at a very sharp angle down to the propulsion spaces before it exploded with a thunderclap. The force of the explosion buckled the flight deck and ripped a large hole in the side of the carrier. The power to damage control parties was immediately cut. The fact that there were D/C parties at all was due to Gregory’s orders that all ships be ready to sail within thirty minutes of the order being given. These brave men began sprinting to their stations, knowing that their ship had been very hard hit.
The second large bomb hit directly on the flight deck and exploded on the hangar deck amidst a fully stocked ammunition locker.
The Varyag was hard hit in this blow. The blast carried away the entire forward part of the flight deck, blasting the debris for a three kilometer radius. The ship whipsawed violently
The third and fourth bombs landed in the ship’s stern, landing in the propulsion center. The bomb’s delayed fuses exploded a few moments later, throwing the ship into darkness and killing the power. The emergency generators began to come online, as the carrier began to flood.
The last bomb did the most damage. This weapon punched into the D/C command post, deep in the bowels of the ship. Its blast immediately decapitated the efforts of the control parties.
The combined blasts heeled the ship hard over, giving her a sharp twenty-five degree list. The flooding in the engine room began to take hold, sending her closer and closer towards capsizing. Her captain barked orders for counterflooding, shaking in rage at what had been done to his ship.
The fight to save the vessel would continue long into the night, but would be futile. Varyag would settle to the bottom late the next day, the fires having driven off her crew. She would be gutted by the flames. At war’s end she would be refloated and towed to a watery grave in the middle of the Pacific.
Over Vladivostok Harbor
The cavalry arrived for the hard pressed Soviet fighters. Two more regiments had screamed east from bases inland. These fighters now fell in upon the strike force as it pounded the base.
Ivan joined up with one of these new fighters, turning to engage a pair of F-14D+ Tomcats. The Navy fighters saw him and turned towards the two MiG-29s. At eight miles range both sides fired head on IR missiles.
Ivan juked hard, dumping flares and throttling back. He turned to look for the other Fulcrum and saw the fighter trying to run and drop flares at the same time.
“Cut your afterburners, comrade! Cut your afterburners!” he shouted. The pilot complied too late, the Sidewinder blasting off a large portion of the tail. The pilot ejected, his canopy flashing in the sky.
Ivan turned to see that the other pilot had managed to get a kill before he died. One Tomcat was falling wrapped in flames. The other was turning back towards him after ridding himself of the pursuing missile.
The two fighters turned towards each other, closing too fast for a missile shot. Ivan wrenched back on the stick, reversing his turn and going to the vertical. His nose came around at an extremely high angle of attack, bleeding off airspeed quickly. However, the angle helped him to make an incredibly tight circular turn.
Ivan was expecting to have an F-14 in his sights. In the Middle East, this had been the key to killing the U.S.N. pilots, getting them in a turning fight.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Ivan’s guts turned to ice as he found himself matched maneuver for maneuver. This F-14 seemed to be a souped up model, for it had canards and a much larger tail section.
It hit Ivan at that moment what he was facing. This was one of the American jackals that was reponsible for his wife’s death. He saw the insignia of a skull and crossbones and knew that he was right.
Someone was going to die today. He turned tighter, going into a half roll. The battle was on between him and this American.
“Shotgun!” someone screamed. Isaac turned in time to see two HARM missiles shooting off and then a ball of flame as another Strike Eagle was hit by some unseen threat.
It was dark in the valleys before the bridges. Isaac and company were engaging in treetop, ‘hold your balls and pray’, flying.
Todd swivelled his head, desperately looking for what had killed the number four aircraft in their flight.
“Kango Two has the threat!” Tyrone wingman’s called out. The night was suddenly split by the explosion of four 1,000lb bombs.
Isaac was ignoring all of this going on behind him, scanning in front of them to avoid terrain and try and pick out a SAM site before it killed them.
The TEWS began singing its song once again. Todd picked up the threats, two ZSU-30-2 gun vehicles.
“Zoos, one o’clock!” he shouted.
“No shotgun!” Isaac warned. The gun crews didn’t have a good lock on them as of yet. If someone fired a HARM they could quickly shut off their radars and fire visually. In the tight confines of the valley, simple barrage fire would kill aircraft in the strike package. Isaac pulled up sharply, dragging the pipper for two cluster bombs across the enemy AAA vehicles. Todd punched off the bombs, and they dropped back just as the enemy gun vehicles began firing.
The stream of tracers lit up the cockpit in a surreal light as they passed overhead.
“HOLY SHIT! BREAK!” Todd screamed.
Isaac had already seen the electric tower in front of them and began pulling up and to the side of it. Tree branches thudded into their wing, Isaac turning that close to the mountain.
“Bogeys, twelve o’clock high!” someone shouted.
“Duke Flight has them,” came the reply.
Isaac nodded to himself. He had know Patricia would find someway to bend the rules and get him some cover. Four F-15Cs rose from their place in the strike package and began locking up the closing enemy fighters.
Two SAMs streaked from the rises above, passing close aboard the climbing Eagles.
“Kango One has the threat,” Tyrone’s calm voice said. Todd, looking up for a brief moment, saw the F-15E dive in and scatter a liberal amount of 20mm ammunition on the enemy troops that had fired upon them.
The incoming fighters were eight MiG-23 Floggers. Princess Flight had them outranged and outclassed. Isaac saw no need for them to have to stay and dogfight.
“Blow through and stay,” he ordered over the net.
“Yes sir!” came the reply of the Captain leading the unit.
Eight AMRAAM missiles left their launchers and streaked off into the night. In the absence of ECM and with their targets having low maneuverability, the missiles had a field day. The Russian pilots attempted to break at the last moment, turning into the enemy attack, but failed. Six bright flashes in the night sky told the tale of dead MiGs. The two remaining enemy fighters continued to close, firing AA-7 Apex missiles.
Chaff and ECM began radiating from the F-15Cs. Suddenly, the missiles had a plethora of targets. Not one of the four launched hit anything.
The U.S.A.F. pilots selected Sidewinder and fired. Two more flashes and a trails of flame at five miles range told Isaac that the Floggers were no longer a threat.
“Gotcha!” Isaac shouted triumphantly. “Good job, Sevens!”
“Break Duke Leader!” Todd barked. “SAM! SAM! SAM!”
Todd hadn’t actually seen the missile, for it had taken off with little flash or indication. However, the huge warnings on the TEWS told him that some SAM crew had just punched off three SA-10 Grumbles. Todd selected a HARM missile and put his hand over the trigger.
“Shotgun!” he barked. The missile left its position and arrowed towards the enemy radar. The operators, caught looking the wrong way, were totally surprised when it exploded scant seconds later.
However, the SA-10 had a second-line IR guidance. Two locked onto Viper Leader. The pilot had nowhere to go, low to the terrain. He dumped flares and pulled up sharply. One missed. The other exploded close enough to cause damage.
“Shit! Mayday, mayday, Viper Leader having to leave this baby. Go get ’em Mudmovers!” the pilot shouted, his control board having gone totally red. He reached below his legs and pulled the ejection handle.
“One more turn,” Todd said. They had circled to come around on the bridge’s from the inland side. Now this circle was complete.
The Amur river gleamed in the rising sun. Isaac turned the Strike Eagle hard to follow it to the south. The strike force, minus three Strike Eagles, followed.
For one brief moment, all was peaceful in front of them. The skies were clear, and the gentle rippling of the water made it seem like a surreal scene.
The next moment, the gun crews and SAM vehicles opened fire. The Strike Eagles had to run a gauntlet of four miles before they were in AGM-130 range. It was a hell of a way to do business, but they had no choice. Popping over the hills had not been an option.
The strike aircraft began rippling off SLAMs, the AGM-84Es shooting off into the night to find homes at radar sites and command posts that had already been marked.
Isaac watched in horror as a stream of gunfire ripped his wingman’s Strike Eagle in half. A SAM streaked out to kill one of the F-15Cs, its pilot riding the jet into the river. Tracers and shells skipped off the water, and misguided SAMs sent up huge waterspouts.
Isaac got a grip on himself and advanced the throttle, as Todd triggered off the last of their HARMs. The two Strike Eagles left in his flight followed him, as Tyrone and Kango Three tried to give the strike force some close protection. Isaac half rolled and popped up, getting an image of the threat. Multiple weapons systems locked onto them, but he didn’t worry about them. Todd got a look at the area around the bridge as they dived back into the water.
A gun vehicle had started to track them. Isaac selected gun vehicle and wrenched the 20mm gun onto line with the ZSU. The M-61A1 fired a seventy-five round burst and exploded the vehicle.
An SA-16 zipped over their fighter and hit the far shore. The secondary was enormous, and Isaac had to take a second glance. Obviously the Russians had put an ammo bin or something there.
The bridge came into view ahead of them. Rumbler Four suddenly pitched nose high and skipped into the river. Amazingly, the weapons officer got out before the jet disintegrated. Isaac half-rolled and dropped two flares, distracting a heat-seeking missile launched at him. Isaac pulled hard back on the stick, popping up.
The bridge was right in front of him. Isaac took a moment to admire the construction. He then turned and began looking for any bridging equipment that might be close by.
The bridge suddenly erupted behind him, as eight AGM-130s hit it.
Isaac saw the bridging equipment and rolled in on it. Rumble Four was right with him. Todd rippled off two 1,000lb bombs.
Later, Isaac would never be able to recall seeing the gun vehicle. Rumble Four would claim he had turned and fired on it just before it stitched up his plane, but Isaac would not recall doing this. Four also would report Isaac as crashed, for his fighter did appear on its way down once it was hit.
All he would recall is feeling the Strike Eagle whipsaw violently and hearing the sound of several bangs. It was only through his great skill that he managed to keep the fighter in the air, as the cockpit started to fill with smoke and flame. Isaac reached down and pulled the fume evacuator. The cockpit began clearing immediately, and the flames went out.
After righting the aircraft Isaac heard a roaring noise. He looked up and saw the huge hole in the canopy. A 30mm shell had passed right through the forward part, leaving a huge hole.
“Thumper, you alright?!” Isaac shouted.
“Yeah, but this damn plane isn’t!” came the laconic reply.
The Russian crews, thinking the plane was in its death throes, had not bothered to continue firing upon it. Now that it was apparent they were going to make it, shells began screaming in at them.
“I think we might want to leave this bird soon!” Todd shouted, as Isaac used what little maneuverability they had to juke.
“Well, if we’re leaving, I’ve got something to do!” Isaac said, spotting a convoy ahead.
Sergeant Paul Ramos looked up at the incoming fighter. The plane looked positively sickly, but it was still flying. He dropped down into his ZSU-23-4 gun vehicle, awakening the gunner.
“Aircraft, dead ahead!” he shouted. The gunner didn’t even bother with the radar, but glued his eyes to the optical sight. The F-15E was incredibly large, and he pulled back on the trigger.
Isaac would remember the second gun vehicle. The ZSU-23-4 blew off half of their right wing. If the gunner had been a better shot or used the radar aiming system, they would’ve been dead. Unfortunately for him and those in his convoy, he was not.
Isaac fought the plane for just a second, managing to get the pipper on the convoy and jettison the last of their weapons. The explosions were very satisfactory in the rearview mirror.
“Can we make it back to Japan?!” Isaac asked, looking over the damage.
“That’s iffy! Both engines are running hot and rough, we’re losing fuel, and the hydraulics are going! But hey, they build ’em tough at McDonnell Douglas!”
“Well, let’s see how tough,” Isaac said, turning for Japan.
So, that was the end of this particular set. If memory serves, Isaac and company make it home. The Russian Pacific Fleet is pretty much mangled in harbor, but at some hellacious cost to the attacking forces. That’s pretty much it. Thanks for reading, and more will be on the way.