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[Anterra] Operation Zaporizhian Fire

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Poja
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Founded: Oct 11, 2018
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

[Anterra] Operation Zaporizhian Fire

Postby Poja » Tue May 26, 2020 8:22 pm


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Operation Zaporizhian Fire

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.:.
Day Four
16-JAN-97





• • • † • • •



Friday, 16th January 1997 | 17:19 hrs [PST]

Eastern Liaria, Poja | Approaching the Green Sea






The low-level turbulence was rough as the four-ship flight of ZuB-17VM Ter'er-C fighters screamed over the hilly, snow-covered terrain of eastern Poja. They were in a tight formation known as echelon left, especially resembling the backspace symbol on a keyboard. In the lead position was Potpukovnik Aleksa Šestic, the commanding officer of the 221st Fighter Squadron, 22nd Fighter Regiment. Flying the number two spot was Porucnik Nikola Nacic, a cocky and junior officer who was a prankster in the barracks and a consummate professional in the skies. He'd be backing up Šestic if the two of them needed to separate. The number three spot was being flown by Kapetan Taško Ivanovic, an accomplished flight leader who had little to no sense of humor. His element wingman, in the number four spot, was Porucnik Bata Jankovic, one of the most junior men in the squadron. Jankovic might be still wet behind the ears but he knew how to follow directions and orders and he had good instincts. He just needed more flying time and now he was getting it.

Šestic kept his hands on the throttle and the stick in his cockpit. The sun had gone down all of twenty-one minutes ago, two minutes before he lit the afterburner on his fighter and jolted into the skies over Zlapovo with Nacic on his side and both Ivanovic and Jankovic twenty seconds behind. The Pojan National Air Force long practiced formation takeoffs for operations such as this one. It put all of the aircraft into the skies quickly and avoided the need to make a circuit around the airfield for all of the fighters to join up, wasting precious fuel. The Ter'er only had so much fuel and even loaded with three external fuel tanks, the fighters would need every liter just to get to the target area and back. There would be no tanker support for this mission and as such, fuel was calculated to the liter. One glance down to his fuel gauge told Šestic that the calculations were correct.

They would be even more crucial once he hit the next waypoint. It was there that his flight would drop their centerline external tanks and drop to just 100 meters above the ground only there wouldn't be any ground, there would only be sea, an unforgiving place to be if you ran out of fuel.

This was the fourth day of what was being known as Operation Zaporizhian Fire and Šestic and his squadron had been in battle since the very first day when his squadron flew combat air support for advancing ground units as they moved across the border into the newly announced, independent state of Zaporizhia. It had once been known as the United Provinces of Rovsnoska and Zaporizhia, a communist state that played Poja's main antagonist since its foundation in 1926 but now it was no more. The civil war that had torn the land to shreds created the independent states of Rovsnoska and Zaporizhia and it was the former that Poja found itself allied to, not the latter. It was the Rovnoski whom Poja had supported since April 1994, when the hostilities within the UPRZ broke out, kicking off the conflict that still raged to this day.

Šestic, an ethnic Liari, had nothing but contempt for the Zaporizhians who were ethnically in line with the Chernarussians and the bad blood between Chernarus and Liaria went back for centuries upon centuries when the Chernarussians first settled in the area, having traveled from further up north in what is modern-day Yarova. The chance to finally throw ordnance at Zaporizhia was something of a dream for Šestic and the rest of the Pojan National Air Force. The UPRZ had supported Chernarus and been defeated and neither nation had gone through the last seventy years without denouncing the other at least once per day. Yet aside from the UPRZ's support of Chernarus, there was never any physical fighting between the two nations. Šestic and his comrades in the Pojan National Air Force simply flew patrols around the border, sometimes tracking UPRZ aircraft from afar with their radars but never crossing the border. Now they finally were and Šestic found that this evening's mission was perhaps one of the most vital.

He glanced back at the HUD and saw the range to the waypoint was closing in on zero. He quickly selected the weapons menu on his primary multifunction display or MFD on the left side of his instrument panel and pushed the button underneath the characters S-J. This brought up the jettison page and he selected the centerline drop tank, turning the color of the tank - at least on his MFD - from green to red. Then he reached up for the master arm switch and flipped it to ARM. All he needed to do now was pickle the release button on his flight stick and the tank would tumble away along with its pylon mounting. It would lighten his aircraft and it would also reduce the drag that the fighter was experiencing. Without any fuel left in the tank, there was simply no reason to keep carrying it.

He glanced to his fuel gauge, having previously selected it to measure not the fuel left in his entire aircraft but rather just the centerline tank. It was approaching zero, along with the waypoint marker. "Viper 1, Lead, zebra." Šestic said into the radio that connected only to his four-ship flight. Predefined codewords had been worked out ahead of time because of a need to not only maintain radio silence but to prevent the enemy from knowing what was happening. Specific callouts would be made only at prearranged points. "Zebra" simply meant to drop the first tank, the centerline tank. With his thumb, he pushed down on the weapons pickle and after just three seconds, the tank jettisoned away. The stores menu changed to show that the tank was no longer there and Šestic flipped the master arm switch back to SAFE. To his right, the other three aircraft did exactly the same.

"Viper 1, Lead, paper," Šestic now said as he pulled his flight stick to the left, pulling the fighter both down and to the north. The other fighters followed suite and in formation each one followed the previous. They went from flying straight and level to banking hard down and to the north, dropping in altitude from 1,000 meters to just 100 meters. Below them, the icy, black waters of the Green Sea rushed upwards as they leveled off and continued towards their next waypoint some 124 kilometers in the distance. They would still have even further to fly from there but they were now officially "feet wet," which was what "paper" meant to say. Any Zaporizhians listening in would recognize the "feet wet" call but they had no idea what "paper" meant; thus, they could not alert the target.

This was real life or death for Šestic and his pilots. They were flying dangerously low, moving at 800 km/h, and running silent. This meant they had their radars off and they were keeping their radio communications completely minimal. Normally, the planes would call out acknowledgements by indicating their position number but not this evening. To only add to the danger, they were hurdling towards battle with a foe that was more than adept at knocking them out of the sky, which was precisely why they were flying so low. At just 100 meters, their foe could not know they were there until Šestic and his men were just 35 kilometers away and they didn't intend on getting that close. Of course, intel had indicated that the Zaporizhians were flying airborne early warning over their eastern peninsula but if they were, the aircraft didn't have its radar on for the passive warning systems in each aircraft, known as the Radar Warning Receiver or RWR, was silent. Had there been an airborne early warning aircraft flying around, with its radar on, the RWRs would indicate such by displaying a diamond with the number "50" in the center to indicate the type of aircraft and its general position and range relative to the aircraft.

The Pojans were looking for it as well. High-speed, high-altitude interceptors were roaming the skies over eastern Poja just looking for any airborne early warning aircraft with the hope of shooting it down. Such a loss would be a tremendous blow for the Zaporizhians and likewise, the Zaporizhians were doing the same thing, looking for Poja's airborne early warning, which was presently airborne and operating in passive mode as well. The Pojans wanted nothing more than to catch their foes by surprise but that worked both ways. Šestic knew more than the rest of his men, though he'd given them a detailed briefing prior to their takeoff. Still, there were aspects of the mission he simply could not disclose because they were highly sensitive pieces of information. The pilots of the 221st Fighter Squadron knew what they needed to know and nothing they didn't need.

Closing in on Waypoint 4 meant that they would reach their Initial Point or IP right on time. From here, they were in war mode. They would make the turn, advance their throttles to full, military power, and speed up to 975 km/h for the run to the target. They could go faster but they didn't want to since fuel conservation was the name of the game. They would be retarding and advancing their throttles to maintain this speed as they screamed over the rough waves of the Green Sea. Why it was named the "Green Sea" no one knew for the water was almost always black, especially in winter.

It was nine minutes and eighteen seconds between the third and the fourth waypoints and those were nine minutes and eighteen seconds spent in silence. Pilots carefully watched their own instruments and the nearby aircraft. Each aircraft had just 150 meters between it and the aircraft next to it. This was the cons of the echelon formation; it was extremely tight with zero room for error. It was demanding on the pilots but it also kept the group tight and easier to control, especially in poor weather. The low cloud base of 2,500 meters promised potential pockets of even lower clouds as they flew over eastern Poja though none materialized. Keeping low over the Green Sea, there was no telling when they might fly into fog, at which point they would need to spread out just a little further.

"Viper 1, Lead, rope," Šestic said as he altered his heading slightly. The entire formation changed to a heading of 020° as they advanced their throttles and sped up to 975 km/h. Just over 170 kilometers in the distance were their targets and they had just ten minutes and thirty-nine seconds before they made visual contact. They wouldn't get that close though for that would be too dangerous and their missiles had minimum ranges. No, Šestic and his squadron would get no closer than fifty kilometers away, utilizing distance as their greatest advantage. They would still be in surface-to-air range but they had a better opportunity of launching their missiles and running before they could get too close. Of course, this was contingent upon them detecting the targets. If they couldn't get them at fifty kilometers, they would need to get closer, which would put them well within SAM range. At 100 meters, they wouldn't be able to detect those targets until they were on top of them and even then, it was too low to fire their weapons. They would need to pop up to 200 meters to fire their weapons but up to 500 meters just to get a good radar track, which would expose them to the enemy's radars.

Still, as they zoomed towards their targets, their RWRs stayed quiet. No one was out there, or so they hoped. One minute ticked away, then two, then three, then four. They covered sixteen kilometers every minute, sixty-five every four minutes. They still had over one hundred to go when the first search radars pinged on their RWRs, which also meant that it pinged on their airborne early warning aircraft too. Šestic heard the chip and looked over at the RWR to see a diamond with a "37" in the middle. Viggens, he thought to himself. There were several Viggens in the skies to the east. These were dangerous aircraft with short and medium-range missiles. The ZuB-17 could easily dogfight with it but not loaded heavy with drop tanks and air-to-surface ordnance. To fight, the ZuBs would have to drop their tanks and their missiles, which was tantamount to mission failure. Premature dropping of the external tanks would mean they would have to go to a divert airfield and dropping their weapons meant no chance for success.

The RWR chirped again as the "50" symbol appeared. This was the enemy's airborne early warning aircraft. As it did, the high-speed interceptors should have sprung into action and they were about to when they were told to hold back. The Zaporizhians were smart. They operated their early warning aircraft over populated areas so that shooting one down risked civilian casualties. It was a way to protect the vulnerable aircraft and though Rugi had no problems mindlessly ordering the killing of Zaporizhians regardless of whether civilians were in the way or not, they weren't looking to lose the PR battle just yet.

Šestic pressed on, ignoring the chirps from his RWR. The Viggens hadn't found them and neither had the early warning aircraft. The chirps were just his RWR telling him that enemy fighters were present not that they'd discovered him or his flight. Until that happened, Šestic was on mission. He closed the distance and three minutes later the final call came, "Viper 1, Lead, shadow." He eased the stick back and gained altitude but not too quickly since he only needed to climb to 500 meters. As he did so, he turned on his radar and flipped it to air-to-ground mode. Where's the targets, he thought to himself as he watched the radar come back with nothing. They closed from sixty to fifty to forty kilometers. The targets had yet to appear. They closed on thirty when all of a sudden there they were, blips in the distance, growing dangerously closer. "Viper 1, Lead, digger," he said and Šestic selected his missiles when all of a sudden, his RWR went from chirps to angry and irate noises. He was being targeted. Before he could get his missiles locked, warning lights flashed. They'd fired first. "Viper 1, Lead, missiles away, fire now!"

• • • • ‡ • • • •


Date: 16-JAN-97
Mission: Strike enemy naval assets
Your Task: Anti-Ship
Time on Target: 17:40:54


Situation:
Be advised: Intelligence is reporting a naval task force of Zaporizhian warships operating in the Green Sea, likely with the intent of ambushing naval forces of the Pojan National Maritime Force due to launch strikes against Zaporizhian targets in the Abargabelozov Oblast.

The Zaporizhian naval task force consists of 1 - 2 Kara class guided-missile cruises for air defense and 4 - 6 Nanuchka class missile boats for anti-ship duties. At present, the naval task force is an advantageous position, masked behind barrier islands and capable of launching its missiles over-the-horizon thanks to Zaporizhian airborne early warning elements and high-elevation radars in the Abargabelozov Oblast. Air command wants these ships sunk or pushed into retreat.


Package Elements:
Viper 1 (Anti-Ship)4 ZuB-17VMSink Kara class cruisers
Viper 2 (Anti-Ship)4 ZuB-17VMSink Nanuchka class missile boats
Viper 3 (Anti-Ship)4 ZuB-17VMSink Nanuchka class missile boats


Threat Analysis:
Enemy CAP aircraft are likely to be operating within operation area assisted by airborne early warning.
Known or suspected enemy air defenses along your flight path include:
SA-N-3 Goblet (Kara class)
SA-N-4 Gecko (Kara class, Nanuchka class)
76-millimeter flak (Kara class, Nanuchka class)
30-millimeter CIWS (Kara class, Nanuchka class)


Steerpoints:
#
Desc
Time
Dist
Head
IAS
Alt
Comments
1
Takeoff
17:00:00
--
--
--
--
Takeoff
2
Turn Pt
17:07:36
57
015
450
1,000
--
3
Feet Wet
17:20:57
178
100
800
1,000
--
4
Initial Point
17:30:15
124
015
800
100
Drop to 100m for ingress
5
Target
17:40:54
173
020
975
100
Maintain 100m until launch point, pop-up to 500m
6
Egress
17:44:30
54
200
900
50
--
7
Turn Pt
17:52:00
100
200
800
1,000
--
8
Return to Base
18:25:46
363
260
650
4,000
--
9
Land
--
--
--
--
--
Land
10
Land
--
--
--
--
--
Alternate landing strip



Ordnance:
Viper 11:Potpukovnik Aleksa Šestic
150 x 30mm GSh-30-1
2x R-73
2x R-77
2x Kh-35
2x PTB-1150
1x PTB-1500

Viper 12:Porucnik Nikola Nacic
150 x 30mm GSh-30-1
2x R-73
2x R-77
2x Kh-35
2x PTB-1150
1x PTB-1500

Viper 13:Kapetan Taško Ivanovic
150 x 30mm GSh-30-1
2x R-73
2x R-77
2x Kh-35
2x PTB-1150
1x PTB-1500

Viper 14:Porucnik Bata Jankovic
150 x 30mm GSh-30-1
2x R-73
2x R-77
2x Kh-35
2x PTB-1150
1x PTB-1500


Weather:
Situation:Dusk
Sunset:16:58
Wind:82 deg @ 16 km/h
Temp:2.5 deg C.
Cloud Base:2,500 m MSL base
Con Layer:10,365 m MSL base


Support:
Thunder 42 ZuB-12PNMFriendly combat air patrol operating over the Green Sea. Available for air support.
Thunder 52 ZuB-12PNMFriendly combat air patrol operating over the Green Sea. Available for air support.
Goblet 61 A-50Friendly airborne early warning aircraft will be operating 150 km east of airfield. Available for air detection, warning, and targeting.


• • • • ‡ • • • •


Friday, 16th January 1997 | 14:30 hrs [PST]

Zlapovo, Liaria, Poja | 22 Fighter Regiment Air Base






Potpukovnik Aleksa Šestic enters the ready room with a folder in his hands and as he does, the shuffle of feet echoes loudly against the vinyl commercial tile and the cinderblock walls as the entire squadron stands to their feet and salutes. He takes the podium at the head of the room, returns the salute, and says, "Take your seats," he looks at his watch, "takeoff is scheduled for 17:00 so we don't have to rush through this. I'll give you the intro and then I'll let Glavina take you through the details." Ivan Glavina, a kapetan, was the squadron's intelligence officer. He was half Chernarussian and half Adjinuan but a Pojan to the core, perhaps more so than most Liari were or could be.

"We're in the midst of Day Four of Operation Zaporizhian Fire," cheers went up in the room, "settle down. Just because I said we don't have to rush doesn't mean this is a circus. Now, we're taking a beating. So yeah how about your cheering now?" There was silence. "The Zaps have," Šestic paused while a young enlistee fiddled with the projector bulb, finally getting it to work. An up-to-date map of the skirmish areas along the border began visible as the same enlistee switched off the room's overhead lights. "There, that's better. So, you can see that the Zaps has counterattacked all along the front lines and our boys have pulled back to a position that remains under the umbrella of artillery and surface-to-air defenses. Fighting is intense along the border and it promises to be.

"So enter the navy,"
boos went around the room, "I'll allow it. The navy wants to put to sea and put themselves within missile range of the Zap peninsula. Only there's a problem. The navy's not great about keeping secret and the Zap navy has sortied and set up an ambush. That's the intel."

In the third row, Nacic leans next to the man next to him and whispers, "Probably just some old guy on a mountain." There's a chuckle but Šestic pretends not to hear it.

"Zaps have put one to two Kara cruisers out to sea along with four to six Nanuchka missile boats. They're hiding somewhere in the vicinity of the Green Sea Islands. Once the navy comes around the islands, the Nanuchkas are going to have them dead to rights and it'll be like shooting fish in a barrel. It's going to be our job to get up there and go sink those ships, or at least force them out of position. Who's still laughing?" Once again, there was dead silence. "Okay, Glavina, go ahead," Šestic stepped away from the podium and over to the wall.

Ivan Glavina was two meters tall but lanky. He would have been uncomfortable in the cockpit of the ZuB-17 but he couldn't have passed flight school anyway, he didn't have perfect vision and he had to rely on glasses just to read ten centimeters in front of his face. "All right so the CO has given you guys the top. Here's the detail. The Zaps are out there with these five to eight vessels and they mean business. The navy is undeterred and they're pressing ahead but they need us to go save their asses, big surprise.

"You're going to approach from low-level, one hundred meters off of the deck. At that altitude, radar range is limited to thirty-five kilometers. You'll be armed with Kh-35s so that means you cannot launch them below two hundred meters since they take a hundred meters for the rockets to fire. The flight profile is going to have you ingress to an advantageous launch point, pop up, and fire. Do not pop up past five hundred meters. There will be three flights, each with four aircraft. The lead will pop up, acquire the target, report a specific codeword, and then you will pop up and engage. Once the missiles are away, get back down, turn around, and get out of there. SAMs on the Kara go out to fifty-five kilometers and there's no jamming them. You can outmaneuver them but only when you have room and at that low altitude you won't be able to do any maneuvering.

"There's another complication and that is fuel. You're going to stretch your tanks on this one. We've got fuel calculated to the liter but just to give you guys an idea what is required. JOKER is set at three thousand kilos and BINGO at twenty-four hundred. Ruminate on that one. You'll all be carrying 1500s on the centerline and 1150s on the wings. That means two missiles a piece plus four air-to-air missiles, two medium and two short range. If you go to air-to-air, if you have to drop your tanks early, if you cannot fly this precise flight profile you will not have the fuel to return here. There will be an alternate given. You can reach it if you dump your tanks and have to go to air-to-air. There's no tankers on this one because we can't have the Zaps know we're coming, and guess what? They don't.

"Now, there's not going to be much support. You've got three flights of four, spaced out in five-minute intervals. There's going to be four ZuB-12s in the skies but their main target is hostile AEW. If we can find it, we want to shoot it down. It's out there, it's always out there, but they don't always turn on the radar, which makes finding it that much more difficult. They also like to fly them over cities so you can imagine how the politicians in Rugi feel about shooting down a massive aircraft over a city.

"We'll have an A-50 up but they'll be passive too because just as we're looking for theirs, they're looking for ours. It's mainly up there to watch. We know that the ships are operating under EMCON but if they turn on their radars, the A-50 will find it and call that out to you.

"Now let's go over some quick protocols. You're flying noses cold, radio silence except for Viper 1-1. Viper 1-1 will make the callouts with specific codewords, again we cannot have the Zaps know we're coming so we've created some codewords that'll be on your kneeboards. Unless Viper 1-1 authorizes you to break radio silence you don't even acknowledge his commands. Anyone unclear about that?"
Heads shook, "Good. The element of surprise is our biggest weapon here we cannot give it away.

"Viper 1 flight is going after the cruisers while Viper 2 and Viper 3 go for the Nanuchkas. Lock onto a target and fire. We'll be doubling up but there's no forward observation to tell you what to target. Target smartly. Work left-to-right and target the contact that reflects your position in the flight, one to four. The missiles are going to do their own thing but at least this'll prevent them all from going after the same target. Viper 1 you'll fire per your element group one or two, same thing left-to-right.

"All right, we'll go over the flight plan in a few minutes but any questions?"

"Yeah what about hostile aircraft, expect them sir?"
A young junior pilot asked from the front row.

"Always expect them. They'll be up there but probably not near the target since the Zaps don't know that we know they're there. They'll be up there to respond so as long as you stay low and follow the flight plan, they won't know you're there until your radars ping off of the ships and you send your missiles their way. By then, if you turn tail and head for home they cannot chase you. Idea firing range is fifty kilometers; however, since we're only guessing at the target location you may have to get closer. Minimize your pop ups and your radar sweeps. Remember, they have passive detection equipment and they know the radar signature of the ZuB-17VM. Any other questions?"

"Yeah weather going to be a problem sir?"
Asked another junior pilot, this time from the back row.

"Weather sucks but it's holding. You've got a low cloud base so it's going to be darker than normal so bring your NVGs. You'll need them. No precipitation is forecasted, winds are light, and it's cold. Yeah any others?"

"What if we have to bail over the sea, anyone coming for us?"
Ivanovic asked, being the guy who asks the question everyone thinks but don't want to ask for fear of jinxing themselves.

"Good question Ivanovic. So there's a short and a long answer. The short answer is yes. The long answer is that it's not going to be quick. Activate your beacons and wait it out. That's the best I can give you. Water temp is low so get into your raft as fast as you can."

"Let's hope we don't have to,"
said Šestic, "we'll be flying a tight formation so everyone watch everyone else. We need to minimize our signature to the enemy so we're low, we're fast, we're tight. Remember your basic formation rules. If you see someone go down, call it out, call it out immediately. They'll launch the helicopter right away. It's just a matter of getting there," he said acknowledging the elephant in the room as the pilots watched the slides change to show them their route. Most of it would be made over the sea.

• • • † • • •




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• The Confederacy of Poja •

User avatar
Poja
Bureaucrat
 
Posts: 50
Founded: Oct 11, 2018
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Poja » Fri Jun 19, 2020 6:08 pm



• • • † • • •



Friday, 16th January 1997 | 17:40 hrs [PST]

Green Sea, Eastern Artemia | Viper 1 Flight, Viper 1-1






Šestic eased back on his stick and brought the fighter jet up to an altitude of 500 meters. Below, behind, and alongside him, the three fighters of Viper 1 flight remained at just 100 meters, skirting above the harsh, winter waters of the Green Sea. He flipped on his radar and switched to SEA, the mode that focused on surface scanning over maritime environments. At his altitude, his radar had a range of eighty kilometers down to the surface and as far as one hundred and five kilometers against a ship, which presented a taller object with which to detect. Yet, he did not get any targets immediately. His mind was focused on the radar, just waiting for the sweep to pick up a contact but he got nothing. He was closing towards an enemy battlegroup at a speed of just over 975 km/h and he didn't want to get too close either.

At sixty kilometers there was nothing, at fifty there was nothing, even at forty there was nothing. Where intelligence told him the battle force was located was empty. He kept closing, now at thirty-five kilometers. He was nervous for every eighteen seconds, he closed five kilometers. Every eighteen seconds he grew that much closer to the surface-to-air missiles of the enemy warships and his targets, a pair of Kara-class cruisers were certainly well armed. At fifty-five kilometers, he was within their engagement range and the closer he got, the less likely he would be to be able to evade a missile. His own missiles had a range in excess of one hundred and twenty-five kilometers so, in his mind at least, there was no reason to be this close. Feeling his heart race, Šestic wondered where the ships were when he got his answer at thirty-two kilometers.

"Gotcha!" He shouted to himself in the cockpit. Then he pressed his transmit button so that he could communicate to the rest of his flight, "Viper 1, Lead, digger!" He quickly reached over and selected the target that was on his screen. It was impossible to tell if it was a Kara-class or not but it was what he was supposed to shoot at and it was certainly the biggest target in the battle force, meaning it had to be the cruiser - or perhaps something bigger. If it was bigger, he didn't want to think what it was, civilian or some larger vessel the Zaporizhians had. Larger simply meant it would have more missiles to throw at him. He already had his missiles selected so there was little else to do except fire when his RWR, which had been chirping like an incessant nag suddenly changed to a cacophony of ferocious noises.

"Viper 1, Lead, missiles away, fire now!" He shouted after depressing the transmit button. His thumb had already pressed the trigger twice and the two anti-ship missiles had dropped from his wings, instantly making his plane over 1,000 kilograms lighter. He was still holding onto his wing tanks but they were giving him the precious fuel he needed to get back home. Yet he had a problem, at least two missiles were heading his way at an increasing rate of speed. More missiles were lifting off in the distance for he could see their smoke trails. "Viper 1, evasive maneuvers, everyone's solo," he said once more as he advanced his throttles to full afterburner, eased back on the stick, and then rolled hard to the left. Pulling as many Gs as he thought he could without needing to drop his tanks, he cleared his wingmen before nosing down, heading right for the deck. His ECM system was already active, flinging distortion in the force of radio noise into the skies to try to confuse the incoming missiles. He was also jamming the chaff release button on the throttle repeatedly, putting as many bundles into the skies around him as he could while he dove for the deck.

The minimum engagement altitude of the M-11 Shtorm is listed as one hundred meters and that's what he's been told by everyone. Šestic doesn't believe it and he flies even lower, finally leveling off at just twenty meters. He can see the sea spray getting onto his cockpit as he puts the missiles to his beam or his 3 o'clock position. By being in this position, the missiles have to constantly turn to keep up with him, to overtake him, to make their interception course but more importantly, it reduces the radar distance for the enemy cruiser. Radar works off of line-of-sight and those radars masts can see an aircraft flying at twenty meters out to about fifty kilometers. He's not quite there but he's flying away from the ships, away from the missiles, away from death.

Šestic, for these precious few seconds, loses all concept of his wingmen. He's flying for his life as the missiles get closer, closing at him at over 3,000 km/h. He's doing just over 1,050 km/h and he can see the missiles coming out of his starboard side. He has one chance to evade them, just one. He's already below their minimum engagement altitude but they're still coming and he continues to drop chaff, continues to keep his ECM active, continues to fly them on his beam. They're getting closer now, closer and closer but he never takes his eye off of his HUD, sees them only out of the corner of his eye and on his RWR. Finally, the decision point comes. Šestic is still on the afterburner, roaring through precious fuel. He's too low to do any major maneuvers but he can do one, precisely one. The missiles are coming downwards and he pulls both hard on the stick, rolls the aircraft, and cuts hard, forcing the missiles to reverse their turn, forces them to bleed through precious energy. He continues to dump chaff and as he does, the missile loses its track if just momentarily enough that it loses the advantage.

Šestic rights himself as his RWR gets quieter. The missiles are gone, having flown into the sea below and behind him, but the threat remains. He's put some distance between himself and the cruisers but not enough. More missiles are in the air but they're targeting his wingmen who are turning hard to get away from them. His RWR was still chirping but it wasn't screaming, which meant that whatever missiles were in the air weren't coming at him. He eased off the afterburner and turned to a heading of 200° before leveling at an altitude of just fifty meters. He eased backed on the throttle and slowed down to 900 km/h. Now he just wondered where his wingmen were.

"Viper 1, Lead, status," he said over the radio. Radio silence wasn't necessarily anymore, the attack had been executed and the Zaporizhians were well aware that they'd been attacked. Šestic couldn't see it but the entire battle force had unleashed a fury of surface-to-air missiles and close-in gunfire to neutralize the incoming missiles. They'd done well enough. Of the eight missiles that had been launched, one crashed into the sea right away when its motor failed to ignite. Four more were brought down by CIWS and surface-to-air missiles. That left just three missiles, two of which slammed into the lead cruiser and one of which struck the second. All three detonated with the lead cruiser sustaining significant damage as a result but the ships wouldn't sink. The damage control parties would be fighting flooding and fires for the next fourteen hours but they'd keep her afloat. The same would go for the other vessel though it wasn't sustaining as much damage simply because it only took one hit, not two.

In the process, Šestic heard his aircraft check in as they leveled off and evaded the incoming missiles. "Two, four thousand kilograms, still got the wing tanks," came the first response from Nacic. Then, "Three, four thousand kilograms, still got the wing tanks but we lost Four," from Ivanovic. There wouldn't be any response from the young Jankovic.

Šestic's heart dropped right through the belly of the aircraft, "Form up," he ordered over the radio, trying to put it behind him. "Any chutes?"

"No ejection,"
Ivanovic answered, "took a SAM."

"Roger, all right, let's get back to base, ease off the throttles, we need to save our gas."
Šestic wouldn't say much more. They flew the rest of the way home in silence and though they'd surprised the Zaporizhians, they had it the worst of the three flights. By scoring successful hits on the two cruisers, they essentially took them out of action. They were now unable to defend the battle force with their medium-range missiles. Instead, the Nanuchkas would be vulnerable to long-range missiles though their smaller profile would make them more difficult to detect, especially since they took off at near flank speed once the cruisers had been struck. Viper 2 and Viper 3 would be able to engage them successfully enough but of the six Nanuchkas, only two would be struck and sunk, the rest would successfully jam or shoot down the incoming missiles. It wasn't the crippling blow that the PNAF hoped for but it was a blow, nonetheless. It meant that the Zaporizhians would not be able to ambush the navy. Of course, in the way of military matters, it would be all for nothing. The navy canceled its planned assault on the Zaporizhian peninsula. Jankovic, in the eyes of his squadron mates, died for nothing because dead he was.

Jankovic's death hadn't been due to his own inexperience. When the missiles came after him, he'd activated his ECM, he'd dropped his chaff, and he'd put them to his beam. He spotted them, tracked them, and pulled his maneuvers to evade them but the missiles never went for the chaff clouds, never lost him in the clutter of the sea or the ECM, they simply tracked his plane. The 120-kilogram warheads exploded within lethal proximity to his plane, tearing it to shreds. Had he been at a higher altitude, he might have been able to eject and to survive but being so low as he was, there was no shot. The detonation of the warheads threw his plane sideways and rapidly flipped him inverted. He struck the water not two seconds later, the aircraft breaking up on impact, killing Jankovic instantly. A memorial would be held for him back at the base and he would be given credit for one of the three hits, making him eligible for a medal that could be logged to his service record, something his parents could be proud of when they received his benefits.



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.:. Puppet of Layarteb .:.
Operation Zaporizhian Fire | When Angels Cry
Earth II | Earth II Discord | Guide to My Stories
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