0735 hours, 23 March

IAF Fulcrum 401, nearing Hyderabad, Pakistan

Lieutenant Colonel Munir Ramadutta peered through his canopy, watching tan desert sand and gravel blur past a hundred meters below. Power surged against his spine through his ejection seat, the muted thunder of twin Tumansky R-33D turbofans, and the morning sun flashed brilliant from his wingtips. He grinned behind his oxygen mask and helmet visor as a verse from the Ramayana came to mind: “… golden in its shape and radiance, fleet as Indra ‘s heavenly steed.”

The ancient Hindu epic’s description of Prince Ravanna’s celestial car could easily have applied to his own aircraft. The MiG-29, code named “Fulcrum” by NATO, was almost identical in size, looks, and performance to the American F/A-18 Hornet and was considered by most observers to be more than a match for any fighter interceptor in the world. The Indian fighter was brand-new, fresh from the production lines at Nasik. Forty-five Fulcrums had been purchased directly from the Soviets, and another one hundred fifty were in licensed production now, sleek and deadly weapons certain to give the Indian air force crushing aerial superiority over India’s old foes.

Pakistan. The barren, dun-colored desert was giving way to the patchwork green of the river-laced Indus Valley. There was still no sign that Wind Strike had been spotted by the Pakistani defenses. They were coming in hard and low on the deck, avoiding radar sites and villages. Even the date—Pakistan Day, anniversary of the 1940 decision to separate from India—had


2 Keith Dougtess

been chosen as a time when Pakistan’s defenses would be at less than one hundred percent. Operation Paschim Hawa— West Wind—had been carefully planned, and the planning was paying off. They were now one hundred fifty kilometers inside the Radcliffe Line, the border between India and Pakistan. Hyderabad, second-largest city in the Sindh, lay one hundred twenty kilometers ahead.

“Green Wind One, this is Green Wind Three,” a voice said in Ramadutta’s headset. “Something on the threat indicator. Might be an APG-66.”

Ramadutta’s grin broadened. A signal from an APG-66 pulse-doppler radar almost certainly meant F-16s, Two of Pakistan’s eleven air defense squadrons were outfitted with F-16 Falcons purchased from the Americans. The Fulcrum’s abilities as an air superiority fighter were about to be put to the test.

“Roger Three,” Ramadutta answered. “I have it.” His HUD was showing targets now, two of them, fifty kilometers ahead and closing. They were probably part of an air patrol out of the military air base at Kotri. “Full power now!”

He pushed his throttles forward, and the Fulcrum’s thunder escalated to an avalanche of noise and power. There was a moment’s rattling vibration as he pressed toward Mach 1, then the sudden, silk-smooth transition to supersonic flight. At low altitude, the Fulcrum could manage Mach 1.2, faster by twenty percent than either the Hornet or the Falcon.

Three more Fulcrums paced Ramadutta’s MiG, hurtling westward in tight formation. Behind them, another four Fulcrums escorted the squadron of ground-attack MiG-27 “Flogger-Ds.” When Wind Strike completed its mission over Hyderabad, Pakistani air power in the Sindh would have all but ceased to exist.

‘ ‘No reaction from the targets,” Green Wind Three reported. “Is it possible they have still not seen us?”

“It is possible,” Ramadutta said. “This close to the ground, our radar returns may be lost in ground clutter.” The Indian air force planes had been operating under strict radar silence to avoid alerting Pakistani receivers. Radio silence was less critical, so near the Indian border and the vast armada of IAF planes preparing the way for West Wind.

“Range thirty kilometers.”


“Pakistan air defense is going on alert,” another voice warned. “I think they have us.”

“It doesn’t matter now,” Ramadutta said. “They still won’t be sure whether or not we’re IAF or Pakistani. Active radar!” Information was more important now than stealth.

His Fulcrum’s powerful pulse-doppler radar painted the sky ahead, pinpointing the two targets.

“Arm weapons!”

His Fulcrum carried R-23 and R-60 missiles, the AA-7 and AA-8 air-to-air killers designated “Apex” and “Aphid” by NATO. For this attack, they would stick to infrared targeting as long as possible, die better to keep the Pakistanis in the dark. He selected an Apex for his first launch. With a range of over thirty-three kilometers, it already had the targets within range. He kept his eyes on the paired blips on his radar screen. The range was down to twenty-four kilometers, still closing. A warbling tone sounded in his ear, his missile informing him that he had a solid IR lock.

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

Categories: Keith Douglass