This must have been a mistake. Why would the USAF invite me to participate in an operation where only the best fighters were supposed to face off in the Nevada desert?
In my career I learned quickly to not ask questions. Especially when things are developing in my favor. I had no intention to clarify an possible mix ups when this meant I lose my chance to get out of this cold and wet weather to finally see the sun and maybe even get lucky at the black jack tables.
Another benefit was, that I was going to fly with a legend. @MBot himself would be my flight lead. Rumours have it that he was the master mind behind the whole operation.
After a day relaxing at the pool and spending a good amount of my monthly pay in casino I was ready for my first mission.
MBot opened the map and explained the general situation and our first objective.
Basically everything north and west of Vegas is hostile. Expect AAA, Manpads and short range SAMs. Everything is spiced up by an impressive Force of Fishbeds and Fagots.
For the first mission, we were tasked to destroy an early warning radar just north of Creech AFB. MBot took target elevation from the map and calculated our parameters for manual bombing (something I still have lots of room for improvement).
Time to mount our rides. The local crew chief seems to have a strange kind of humor. They gave MBot and me the same tactical number. Our jets were equipped with a bomb rack and five Mk 82 dumb bombs, a pair of AIM-9P Sidewinders a full load of 20mm ammo and as much fuel a the internal tanks would take.
Our flight of four was taxiing to runway 03R. I’m #2.
Lining up we decided to not take any chances and don’t try any airshow stuff.
Rolling with a nice and safe 5 seconds interval we were airborne and all tires are still in good shape. This mission was already a success.
The laden Tiger is kind of a ground hog. It took us some time to get up to speed and the distances are not that big. We were slowly climbing to get out of the worst stuff (e.g. guns and SAMs) around Creech. The plan was simple: Do not overlay the hostile airfield, locate the target on top of the hills north of Creech, drop all bombs in one run, get the heck out of the area before the bad guys arrive.
The trick with manual bombing is, to be at the right dive angle, with the right speed at the right altitude. Retrieving these parameters from the bomb tables is an art in itself which MBot has mastered. I still have trouble nailing all three during my bomb run.
MBot was dropping first. From a mile behind I watched his attack.
“Shack!”. Good hits from lead.
But the EWR was still undamaged. MBot attacked the AAA protecting the radar. I already saw during my ingress that I was attacking other targets than MBot. Not to bad to deny those red troops shooting back at us.
2 was in hot. My view was fixated on the Pipper. I had a bad feeling when I dropped the bombs. Altitude and dive angle weren’t to bad but my speed was way over the mark.
I pulled out of my dive and began to pray. Maybe the spread will make up for my clumsy ingress.
I didn’t look too bad…
Well. Maybe it did…
That’s what I meant with room for improvement. Sheepishly I radioed my miss. I prayed for our second element being more competent.
Watching over my shoulder I could see first group of targets burning, the EWR still ok and some new craters behind the ridge.
But it ain’t over until the fat lady sang.
Number 3 was going in. And he looked determined.
Direct hit. I was glad and depressed at the same time.
We followed our briefed egress procedure. RWR was indicating that Creech woke up and sent some MiG-21s in our direction. We were not keen on fighting them in the target area which was literarily in the middle of the lion’s den. MiGs were going to appear from all directions.
I had lost visual on MBot and climbed unintentionally, a bad habit from my old days. He spotted my contrail and we formed up just north of Vegas. The idea was to hide cowardly…eh…tactically in Nellis Hawk cover.
[to be continued]