Thanks to the Usual Leaders and Suspects, the Wednesday Night Training Mission did NOT disappoint! And once again - I learned SO MUCH from the planning, the action, and especially from the guiding hand of @near_blind.
I think it was @klarsnow who wrote up the Planning Guide, and for once, I wasn’t immersed up to my elbows in bike-related stuff, that I actually had the opportunity to read the doc, look up the terms, and overview the map. I just learned the HARMS last week, and had a few of them go kind of ballistic, so I didn’t want to make that mistake again, and I wanted to learn from SimPilots who get to spend more time in their cockpits than I currently do.
BUT - Line 5 in the Briefing sent a chill down my spine. Fog? Rain? Crosswinds maybe? NIGHT? Case 3 WHAT?
Wow - I need to practice.
So, I watched the videos, took notes, did maybe a dozen daylight and sunset landings, and figured, well, this is about as much as I can do before GO time.
Around 1800 local time I checked in to the Aux Server on TeamSpeak, and just missed @Bogusheadbox, informing me that we were moving to either/both Discord and SimplyRadio. I didn’t want to slow the group down with my limited knowledge of the radios, so I pretty much kept it on Discord. I do have the radio channels plugged in to my HOTAS, but they’re still not 100% familiar to me yet. Luckily, @near_blind instructed me to our two-ship channel for the flight and the fight.
I’ll summarize the flight breakdown like this; I was a mess. I lost @near_blind, we regained each other, I lost him again, he helped with the nightvision, we rendezvou’ed at the waypoints. He was hopping channels on the radio, and announced our push.
Armed with two HARMS, two AIM-7’s, and two AIM-9X’s, with two gas bags, I thought we’d be able to adequately engage after the fighters, get the SA-2’s, and get back to the Stennis.
Well, I mucked that up, as well.
@near_blind was at my 3 o’clock when I picked up a bogey while scanning left from 10-40k at 40miles on my radar. I THINK I locked him up (I’d love to get the tacview on this mission), but I ended up pushing the left top button on my T-1600 joystick, which I THOUGHT I had set to ‘weapon release’, but… Nothing.
SO - I then tried the trigger… twice.
Both missiles launched, from too far out, and went LOFT, and I got nothing.
I know @near_blind was rolling his eyes behind the mic, but again, like Cool Hand Luke, he calmly told me to re-engage in ACM mode on the radar, and get the bogey with an AIM-9.
Okay - this was a head-on shot, with radar lock, closing velocity over 1200… heater lock… and I MISSED.
I caught ONE glimpse of a shadowy opponent in my goggles, and then lost complete situational awareness. I turned, I looked all over, I sped up, I slowed down, I dove… Nothing. Meanwhile my rwr is screaming at me, I’m dumping chaff and flares every now and then when I see something that looks like it might be behind or beside me… And then I realize that I’m maybe about 1000’ off the deck and falling. Now, survival becomes the priority, instead of fighting, so I throw the throttles forward, get some space back between myself and the ground, and start looking around again, for something… anything.
@near_blind, meanwhile, has dispatched said bogey.
He tells me to climb to Angels 20 or 25, and get to waypoint, what, 4? We’re pushing in for the HARM shots.
I DO get my now-empty gas bags dropped, with just one or two minor instructions from the Angel in my ears, and take on the Westernmost SA-2 radar. I get within 22 miles, get one last prod for lock via the “I” key to set the box, fire, get locked onto myself, and turn and flee. I think he did the same. I practice the “SA-6” maneuver of corkscrew and dive, then climb back up again, and we both fire our second missiles.
I THINK I hit the thing. I think, I think. The report on the left side of the screen mentioned something - I wasn’t paying much attention. I had maybe 8000lbs of fuel left, @near_blind had even less, and we both went back towards the Stennis.
Now, gang, I PROMISE YOU, I’m not a “compleat” noob. I’ve navigated to the carrier using Tacan and ICLS, many a time, thanks to some missions that @Sryan built for me, and I’ve since copied and edited for different complexities, etc. @near_blind had to hit a tanker, but he said I would be by far the first one to the carrier, and to ignore the Case III protocols, start at 10-12 miles out, get dirty, work the throttle, and LAND and get out of the way.
SO I then basically flew all over and around the Task Force in circles and squares, COMPLETELY screwing up the lineup behind the carrier itself, until my own fuel situation became a real concern. Meanwhile, @near_blind had completely refueled from a tanker, and FREAKIN CAME BACK to me, and basically did everything he could to guide me back to the area behind the carrier, and then get properly lined up.
I’ve never tried SO HARD to NOT SCREW THIS UP. I WANTED this landing. I wanted SOMETHING to go right tonight. I swear, if I’d had an HRM or an EMG, you would’ve seen me near Threshold on HR, and the EMG would’ve shown my sphincter tight enough to press industrial diamonds.
I FINALLY got on glideslope, worked the “E”… And boltered.
Once again, that Angel in my ears calmly got me back up and around, and at 3.5 miles (room I knew I’d need), I turned back in, and got set up.
The rain on my nose gear light created HUGE levels of disorientation - I couldn’t remember how to turn it off on the left control panel, and honestly, I didn’t want to leave my eyes from the HUD. I now have that switch SEARED into my brain, over to the left of the JETT button, but at the moment, I was fighting for vision beyond 30m off my nose.
I made the approach - @near_blind must have been just over my shoulder to my five or seven o’clock - FINALLY saw the carrier, and wrongly chopped the throttle in some sub-conscious (and vain) attempt to plunk the bird onto the carrier and maybe catch a wire.
I added throttle, but it was too late. The bird skimmed and then splashed into the ocean, and I was able to eject, thus saving my pilot’s life but subjecting him to a life behind the “in & out” counter with a white shirt, a bowtie, a forced smile, and a “here’s your #2 with no onions and a Dr. Pepper, ma’am.” or even worse, getting picked up by hostiles and then living a life of deceit while denouncing Yankee Imperialists behind bars and in front of a camera and a teleprompter.
I thanked @near_blind and the team still flying profusely, but left the chat a bit early, as my Thursdays start early and end late, and I don’t get to join y’all as much as I’d like.
BUT I AM STILL COMPLETELY IN LOVE WITH THIS SIM, and I AM ETERNALLY GRATEFUL for the continued guidance, kindness, lack of meanness, and general joviality of this crowd. Y’all are SO unique!
@near_blind - Thank you again, and I owe you dinner.
Gang, is there ever a time other than Wednesday evenings, local time, when we might fly? Say, over a weekend?
Finally - may I beg a link to the directions for HOSTING a flight or world or mission or something? I’m willing to host and pay for some extra hours outside of the regular meetup.
And finally… Here’s my cockpit for the next two years or so: