The roar of twin Pratt and Whitney engines fills my ears as I push the throttle to the firewall. The F-15C Baz reacts like a scalded cat, and I begin racing down the runway at Anapa before lifting off into the clear blue sky over the Gostagayka river. To my right is Segen rishon Moshe “Klarsnow” Epstein, my section leader for this romp into hostile territory. We begin a gentle right hand as we climb, heading south, and towards danger.
The mission for today will be to perform aggressive fighter sweeps over the Tuapse area to find and destroy any hostile aircraft. To accomplish this we’ll fly down in around FL21, and pursue any targets as practical (sling many AMRAAMs at them). For this mission we’re both sporting the trendy 7x1 (7 AIM-120Cs, 1 AIM-9M) load out with a pair of 610 Gallon fuel tanks and a full load of 20mm for our M61s.
We achieve our cruising altitude east of Novorussysk bay, and I move to establish my self 1 NM off his left wing, with a few thousand feet altitude difference to complicate any potential bandits radar and visual search.
Before us lies a veritable wall of jamming, some of it theirs, some ours.
We’ll need to get closer to begin identifying the livestock, much less sorting the goats from the sheep.
Eventually the radar picture begins to resolve itself. First a little…
… then all at once.
I switch to TWS to increase my SA and gain further information about the contacts. To our right is a furball of many friendlies and a hostile. We will avoid shooting into this for fear of hitting a coalition aircraft. However to our left there is a bandit by itself, and I latch onto this as the best potential target. All of these schmucks are playing in the weeds, as OPFOR likes to do. As I debate requesting permission to engage, my target drops off the scope, having most likely flown into a valley.
Simultaneously someone meets a fiery end in front of me.
Another contact appears, near where the first furball is happening appears, this one much higher and less bracketed by friendlies. I try and tag him, but he is flying directly in front of a powerful jammer and my radar has troubles picking him out. I finally bug him, but he enters the doppler notch as he chases a friendly. I stick with the contact as he is now uncomfortably close. After a few seconds he reappears, and I bug him once more, then send an AIM-120C his way before cranking to the left.
I continue my turn, exiting the fight and leaving my AMRAAM to its own devices. It was strong however, and I am rewarded with confirmation of a kill by the GCI. I look over and sure enough, a cloud of black smoke tumbles earthward.
During this time Klarsnow had found his own bandit on the deck, chased it down, and killed it. We both head north to rejoin and coordinate our next engagement.
On our next ingress into the zone, things are largely the same. The wall of jammers resolves itself at its own pace, this time morphing into a swirling mess of hostiles. We begin maneuvering for advantage against the blob. Once more a target appears to our left, this time at a higher altitude. High and fast means my missile is more likely to connect, so I take a shot, and immediately the bandit continues his turn and runs cold, defeating my missile.
Klarsnow calls out he is engaged, and orders a left hand turn to exit the fight and build distance. I comply, and seconds later he calls he has been hit, and he’s ejecting. I immediately reef my Baz around and cue up vertical scan, searching for the offending bandit as his wreckage tumbles to the ground.
Vert scan reveals nothing, but a quick sweep in RWS quickly pick up a contact I identify as a Mirage 2000. I send a slammer its way.
I stay oriented towards the bandit, he doesn’t seem to be bothered with me and I want to press my advantage.
This attitude changes as I see his nose swing towards me, and I crank right to put him on the edge of my radar. After a few moment’s I see his aspect rapidly change again: the missile has gone active and he’s defensive. I pitch back hot once more to maintain the pressure. I fire another AIM-120 as our range comes below five miles. I also note a second contact ahead of my bandit.
I’m disheartened to see neither of my missiles hit, especially from such a close range, but there is still work to do. I maneuver to bring him in line for an AIM-9 shot. I pull him into the HUD, and fire…
I attempt to pull him into my gun sight just to make sure, but I’m going to fast and the jet protests, my opponent spirals out of control anyways. Almost immediately my gun sight auto acquisition picks up another target. I select my AIM-120 and send it his way.
Unlike his friend his aircraft gives up the ghost far easier, and spirals into the mountainside. My RWR informs me yet a third Mirage is lurking, and I turn hard to the right, searching for more fodder for my last remaining AIM-120.
I spot a contrail up high and though I’m pessimistic my missile will be able to make it up there, I let him have it.
However checking this contacts aspect, he cannot be the offending Mirage. Seeing that the contact has dropped off my RWR, I deduct he’s probably just in the process of completing a conversion on my stern. Reflexively, I bunt the nose down to regain speed and begin dropping flares to spoil any missile shot. A look over my shoulder confirms my suspicion, a tan Mirage 2000C is saddled deep in my six.
All is not lost however, the IDF knows a thing or two about deltas in general, and Mirages in specific. It can, if so inclined, turn inside its own tokhes, but at grievous cost to air speed. My engines and weight are greater than his, meaning I can recover my speed faster downhill, and with my better lift factor, I suffer less going up as well. I will use these to my advantage.
I begin a right turn and quickly see him pulling lead for a gun shot. I immediately unload the jet and pull the nose up in a jink, both to throw off his aim and bleed his energy. After a few seconds I see him adjust, so I jink again. This time I see him slide past my tail to the outside of my turn circle, indicating an overshoot. I pull up again, hoping to enter into a tree fight.
I’m flabbergasted however to see that the Mirage has already reversed its turn and is slicing back underneath me, negating my plan.
I’ve misjudged his energy state, and I’m uncomfortably slow and vulnerable. Instead of a tree, we do one rotation of a rolling vertical scissors wherein he solves my problem by bleeding his energy trying to wrench his nose around for a gun shot.
For the time being I’m confident he can’t achieve a valid shot, but I’m extremely uncomfortable watching how little trouble the Mirage seems to have maneuvering post stall. I need to regain my energy. fast. I bunt the nose down to do just that, hoping to turn back into and under the Mirage at the same time. The terrain does not cooperate however, and I’m forced to head down hill to avoid the mountainous ridges. I look back to see the Mirage saddled back up behind me: we’ve essentially reset the fight to our initial positions, just slower.
I see his nose point out ahead again, and I jink once more. I’m a little slow this time, and I receive a few 30mm API shells through my vertical stabilizer. The jet is otherwise unaffected, and I continue my climb as I watch the Mirage overshoot once more. He appears to lose visual with me and slices back around, winding up at my high eleven O’clock.
NOTE: Obviously there is some warp going on here, which I definitely benefited from. I’ve watched the video around twenty times, and I can’t get a decent feel of what his energy state was as he warped. At one point he looks like he is energy low, but has the nose authority to get a shot on me. The next frame he is zooming across my tails, indicating another high energy overshoot. At the same time I had the speed to jink, but was saving my “pull” until I could gauge his action, which of course, never really happened. Is it possible he could have gunned me?
Recognizing my chance, I unload the jet and accelerate to catch him. He accelerates to run. Calling this a mistake would be putting it lightly. Once more I dump fuel into my thirsty Pratts, and will them to drek as much fury as I currently am. He begins a gentle left turn while flying trans-sonic, which does nothing but allow me to eat up the distance between us. Once we’re in range I take an exploratory burst which falls short. A second to adjust and…
My glee is almost cut short by a fourth mirage blasting across my HUD, but a quick radar sweep reveals him as friendly.
My elation is actually cut short by my RWR, informing me an F-15 is indicating he’d like to make my acquaintance. I have no desire for such, select max afterburner, and exit the threat area on the deck at Mach 1.2.
I spend my lonesome flight back wondering what is to become of my section leader, and hoping our SAR aircraft will rescue him. Friendly aircraft stream past, on their own journey to the zone of danger. Upon approaching the base, I decide you only get four kills in a single flight so often, and decide to indulge in a high speed pass over the tower. A 360 degree roll completes my impromptu airshow, and I dirty the jet up for landing.
After shutting down the jet, and enduring a long, bitter stare from my crew chief after he noticed the new speed holes in my left stabilizer, I hop in a jeep and am taken back to the ops building where I collapse into the nearest shoddily constructed soviet chair. Our XO clasps me on the shoulder, while handing me a coffee mug full of a clear, odorous liquid that is certainly not coffee. After a sip of what was probably radar coolant at one point, he explains the SAR chopper’s are approaching Klar’s position, but they have not heard from him yet, and tells me I’m more than welcome to wait.
However the weight of my intense fight with the trio of mirages and what I’m assuming is permanent brain damage caused by ingesting industrial solvent conspire to lull me into a solid nap.