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.

“I have lock,” Three reported. Wind Two and Four would hold back, in reserve. “Northern target.”

“Targets breaking off,” Ramadutta snapped. “Launch!”

His thumb caressed the trigger on the Fulcrum’s stick, and he felt the bump as the AA-7 cleared the launch rail and arrowed toward the target on the end of a streaming plume of white smoke. The F-16s were veering sharply toward the south. Whether they’d identified the intruders somehow or were simply changing course for the next leg of their patrol was immaterial now. At better than Mach 1, the Apex homers would reach the targets in a little more than a minute.

The dazzling blue of a canal exploded beneath Ramadutta’s MiG. He glimpsed blurred details on the ground that might have been grazing cattle. The thought struck him with unexpected force. Such a peaceful scene . . . and the war has already begun.

War! Somehow, Munir Ramadutta had given little thought to the reality of that word. He’d thought his training—and the long expectation of war’s coming—would have braced him for this moment. They had not.

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Categories: Keith Douglass