on your six!”

0747 hours, 21 January

Tomcat 216

Batman turned in his seat as Tombstone yelled the warning. He searched

the jungle behind them, saw the telephone pole shape rising from the

direction of U Feng. “Launch! Launch!” he called.

“Oh, shit,” Ramrod added from the back seat. “He’s locked onto us,

Batman! He’s got a lock!”

Batman heard the warbling chirp of the Gainful’s Straight Flush radar. A

warning light labeled SAM flashed red next to his HUD.

The Gainful climbed above the treetops, accelerating at a sky-burning

twenty Gs. Then the solid booster burned out. Looking back again,

Batman saw the spent booster falling away. The missile was now moving

toward him at Mach 1.5. With the booster gone, the rocket converted to

a ramjet, gulping air through four ducts as it continued to accelerate.

Top speed for the SA-6, Batman knew, was Mach 2.8, well above the best

the Tomcat could do.

Batman brought the F-14 into a sharp turn. “I’m breaking, Eagle

Leader,” he said. “I need some maneuvering room.”

Roger that,” Tombstone replied. “Get clear.”

He held the break, grunting against the increasing G forces. “Keep it

coming,” he said, more to the aircraft than to Ramrod or anyone else.

“Keep it coming. His compass reading dropped as he turned through a

full 180 degrees, until he was heading straight toward the oncoming

SA.M. He couldn’t outrun the thing, but having seen its launch, he had

a chance to outsmart it.

He checked his altitude. Six thousand feet … that was going to make

it damned tight. The missile was angling over now, flying almost on the

same level as Batman’s aircraft. Still hurtling toward the SAM, Batman

rolled the Tomcat right until he was canopy down, then brought the stick

back and headed for the ground.

The Gs built as Batman held the inverted dive. “Good night … Ramrod!”

he grunted against the crushing pressure. There was no answer from the

backseat, and Batman knew his RIO was either unconscious, or too busy

breathing to reply. He stabbed the chaff release again and again,

scattering false targets in the F-14’s wake.

Green jungle filled the forward half of his canopy as his altimeter

spooled rapidly toward zero. The G-pressure was gone now, replaced by

the dropping-elevator sensation of free fall. He chanced a look over

his shoulder, saw the SAM arrowing toward the ground now, hard on his

tail and getting closer. His first chaff release hadn’t fooled it, and

it was now a race to see whether the plunging Tomcat would be destroyed

first by the missile or the up-rushing ground. Now …!

He pulled back on the stick, watching the ground swoop away beneath the

Tomcat. The G-forces returned with a vengeance, crushing his chest,

dragging at the skin of his face, on his guts. He slammed the throttles

full forward past the detents and into afterburner. The Tomcat’s twin

engines shrieked fury as he started to climb again, leaving the ground

behind. The plane was shuddering with the terrible stress. A number on

his HUD showed that he was pushing nine Gs, and he was aware of

blackness closing in at the periphery of his vision, a sure sign that he

was about to lose consciousness.

Then the F-14 shrieked into clear sky. He looked back and saw a boiling

mushroom of white smoke where the SAM had smashed into the jungle.

Made it! Batman let out a long, unsteady breath. That one had been a

hell of a lot closer than he really wanted to admit.

0747 hours, 21 January

Tomcat 201

Tombstone kept his heading dead on for the approaching MiGs. “This is

Eagle Three!” Garrison called over the radio. “They’ve locked on to


“Say again, Eagle Three.”

“Tracking lock! Tracking lock–correction, launch! I have missile


“Eagle Six confirms. Bandit launch.”

“Looks like they want to play,” Tombstone said. He shifted frequencies.

“Victor Four Delta. Victor Four Delta, this is Eagle Leader. We have

SAM and air-to-air launches on American planes. Engaging.”

That answered any question about the ROES. The bad guys had fired

first, and the Navy was responding with appropriate action.

At least, that was how the official after-action reports would read.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142

Categories: Keith Douglass