“Hey man, the brief is in 5 minutes.”
“I know. Almost done. Ok…let’s go”
” I really wish you would give me your sister’s number.”
“Why…cuz she was runner-up in the ‘Hawaiian Tan’ competition?”
“Not gonna happen.”
Walking into the ready room, they both were not overly excited about today’s mission. With only one week left before they were heading home, they were scheduled for another combat air patrol (CAP) mission…overhead the carrier! Not much “combat” there. They were a “standby” in case something came up. They were to orbit overhead…for 2.5 hours…then land.
It had been a long 7 months, patrolling the coasts of Southwest Asia. They had escorted numerous strike packages to inland targets, but never had a chance to engage any “bad-guys”. Seems like the local gomers didn’t like to mess with F-14s.
Plopping down in their ready room chairs, they listened to the brief. Four Hornets were going to escort a recon aircraft around the coast up north. Boring!! The CV cap would be used as a fill-in, if required.
“Vampire 11…you’ll listen on button 9. Don’t think we’ll need a Tomcat, but please monitor.”
Leaning over to his RIO, the pilot asked: “Hey, why are our call-signs ‘Tom’ and ‘Jerry’?”
“I lost a bet with these guys.”
“I didn’t bet anyone.”
“Hey man, we’re a crew. We hang together…right?”
“What was the bet?”
“You would give me your sister’s phone number.”
“It’s your fault. Gawd! Besides, it’s just for this mission. Good news though…since you’re the pilot, you can be ‘Tom’.
“There’s a choice for you,” Tom said sarcastically.
“Hey, I’m ‘Jerry. Since I’m the RIO, it makes more sense. Jerry was always smarter…just like me.”
“Jerry, I hate you sometimes.”
“Hey man, I set you up with your beautiful wife.”
“No you didn’t…you rolled in on her obnoxious roommate at the club. I had to work really hard just to get her to talk to me, while you were sticking your tongue down that bimbo’s throat.”
“Geeeez, she was obnoxious. That’s the only thing that shut her up.”
“Oh and don’t forget…I had to work like a dog just to get Tori to go out with me again after what you did to her roommate later that night.”
“It wasn’t that bad.”
“Really? You took her back to her parents house, totally liquored-up, instead of back to their apartment.”
“It was closer and I was tired.”
“Then you prop her up next to the front door, rang the doorbell and ran like a pussy.”
“I didn’t run. I just walked briskly. Her dad liked to hunt. You wouldn’t like to see my head mounted on his wall, would you?”
“Right now I would….Jerry!”
Once airborne, the flight took on the standard monotonous flavor of a CV cap. Tom would set the auto-pilot and check the weapons. He would slew the seeker heads of his four short range Sidewinder heat-seeker missiles, checking for a good tone in his headset. Jerry would tune the four medium range Sparrows, selecting random frequencies. Everything looked good. One hour into the flight, they got an unexpected radio call.
“Vampire 11, your vector is 340…signal is ‘Buster’… switch Strike, button 8.”
Jerry, shaking his head out of a light snooze, snappily replied: “Copy, 340, switching button 8.”
Tom, with his blood flowing now, rolled and pulled the Tomcat until the heading was 340 degrees, simultaneously selecting full military power (as fast as you can go without using the gas-guzzling afterburners).
Jerry could feel his pulse racing, his g-suit inflating, his stomach muscles tightening, with a hint of bile in his throat. “Strike, Vampire 11 checking in, heading 340. Say intentions.”
“Vampire 11, mission is Close Air Support. Switch Button 16…Lancelot Control.”
Tom: “What the hell…we don’t got no friggin’ bombs for CAS…and who the hell is “Lancelot?”
Jerry: “Hush. Lancelot, Vampire 11 is up.”
Lancelot Control: “Vampire 11, we need you to proceed to station Alpha…I’m passing you the waypoint.”
Jerry, looking down at tactical display, sees the symbology appear…40 miles inland. “Vampire 11, got the waypoint. Is that you, Snidely?”
Lancelot Control: “Yes it is…glad you recognized my voice.”
Tom: “Tell him we don’t got no bombs.”
Jerry: “Shut up and fly the jet…and try not to fly into anything.”
Jerry: “Snidely, we’re air-to-air only. Missiles and guns.”
Lancelot Control: “Don’t need CAS. Some Army rangers have spotted some bad-guy aircraft in their area. The need some air superiority.”
Jerry: “Giddy Up. You showing any bandits?”
Lancelot Control: “Negative, but you know our scope works best over water…not so good over land. Contact Ranger 69 for SITREP (Situational Report) on 287.5.”
Jerry: “What’s our weapons status?”
Lancelot Control: “Status Red and Tight, for now. Monitor Guard freq for any updates from Alpha Whiskey (air warfare commander). ”
Jerry: “Copy…Red and Tight. Switching 287.5…will be up on guard freq.”
Tom: “Master Arm On! Good flags on all missiles.”
Jerry had his head down…slewing his radar over the target area, 50 mile scale…hoping for a hit in his doppler mode (measuring closure of a target). He could feel it now…the excitement, the adrenaline, the focus. His scan was quick between the radar scope and the smaller radar warning scope.
Tom’s eyes were outside…left 9 o’clock to right 3 o’clock. “Quick, quick,” he told himself.
Jerry: “Hey man, let’s go with the Sparrows first, then switch to ‘winders. I’ll shoot the Sparrows…you got the ‘winders.”
Jerry: “Ranger 69, Vampire 11 checking-in.” Nothing but low-grade static. “Ranger 69, Vampire 11 checking-in on 287.5!”
Ranger 69 (heavy static): “Vampire, we got numerous aircraft hitting our positions.”
Tom: “What did he say?”
Jerry: “Deep shit, I think.”
Jerry: “Ranger 69, Vampire is south at 12 miles…can you give me a relative direction of the bad guys?”
Ranger 69 (broken transmission): “East and…looks…6…”
Jerry: “God dammit. Did you hear anything but ‘east’?”
Tom: “Yeah…’six” something.”
Jerry: “Let’s come hard right, steady 040. We’ll sweep from east to west. Sound good?”
Tom: “Yes sir. Geez, now you think you’re Mission Commander.”
Jerry: “I am the damn Mission Commander. Let’s stir some shit.”
A quick fuel check showed 10,000 pounds of gas remaining. Probably enough, they both thought.
Lancelot Control: “Vampire 11, Vampire 11…weapons’ status is Red and Free. You’re cleared to arm; cleared to fire.”
Tom: “Mother Fah…”
Jerry: “Copy, Red and Free.”
Jerry: “Got a lock…10 right, 7 miles, angels (altitude)…LOW!”
Tom rolled the Tomcat inverted and pulled, quickly descending from 15,000 feet to 5,000.
Jerry: “Five miles…good lock…Fox 1!”
The launch button in the back seat glowed red as he pushed it firmly. A half a second later, the Sparrow dropped from the fuselage, feeling like the transmission just feel out of a car. Then a loud “whooooosh.”
Tom: “Missile tracking.”
Jerry: “Eyeballs out. PAL selected (hoping for a quick lock on any target in the area).”
Tom: “Fireball…no chute.”
Jerry: “Lancelot, Ranger…splash one.”
Lancelot Control: “Copy…splash one.”
Tom: “Got three bandits crossing left to right…low…”
Jerry: “Got dick…selecting VSL (hoping for something within + or – 10 degrees of the nose, inside 5 miles).”
Tom: “Switching heat (selecting Sidewinder)….good lock, good tone. Fox 2.”
As Tom pulled the trigger on his control stick, the 200 lb missile came off the left wing-root rail almost simultaneously. Another “whoosh”.
Tom: “Fireball…good chute.” Tally 2 bandits, on the nose, running like hell.”
Jerry: “Good lock, 3 miles…don’t like turning our backs like this. Let’s ‘scat’ right.”
Tom rolled the Tomcat 90 degrees, pulling hard for45 degrees, then leveled out before the radar broke lock. Jerry was glued to looking over both shoulders for any bad guys.
Ranger 69 (mild static): “Vampire, we got 2 bandits now, straffing our positions…”
Jerry: “Hey man, we gotta let these guys go and get back. Ranger, Vampire is inbound from the east.”
Ranger 69: “Hurry please.”
Tom rolled then pulled the Tomcat hard…6.5 g’s worth…both guys strained and grunted to keep their vision, as it shrank and turned grey.
Jerry (groaning): “Steady out at 260.”
Tom: “Steady…fuel, 6.8…getting low.”
The Rangers were smashing themselves behind anything that they could find…mostly sand burms and brush. So far, the bad guys couldn’t shoot accurately with their 30 mm cannon…but they kept trying.
Captain Rogers, C.O. of Delta Company, was racing between concealment positions…”God I hope those Navy pukes make it here,” he whispered to himself.
“Captain, looks like they’re leaving…or setting up for a bomb run,” screamed one of his men.
Two SU-25 Frogfoots raced north, before reversing their course. They remained low…at about 500 feet. Their plan was to stay low, then pop, climbing to 2,500 feet, before rolling over and pulling…allowing them to sight the intended positions…then dropping their bombs at a minimum of 1,000 feet.
“God, I hope they’re leaving,” Roger thought.
“Captain…I can see two popping up now,” screamed the same man.
“Stay LOW everybody!,” screamed Rogers.
Both Frogfoots popped at the same time, climbing quickly. Rolling in unison, they each took a 30 degree cut away from the other, before leveling in a shallow 20 degree dive. The western Frogfoot had acquired his target…looked like a small vehicle, when he notice a quick flash out the left quarter panel of his windscreen. Quickly looking left, all he saw was a large cloud of white smoke, with a fireball in the middle. Instinctively, he jerked his aircraft hard right, away from the fireball. Bad move!
Tom: “Thank you, gomer. Fox 2…again.”
The remaining Frogfoot had turned his tail pipe directly toward the Tomcat. Normally, it’s somewhat difficult to pick up a heat tone when you’re looking high to low, over a desert. However, the hot exhaust was more than enough to counter the hot desert sand.
Tom: “Fireball…no chute.”
Captain Rogers could only watch in envious fascination as the two Frogfoots exploded. “Fuckin’ A,” he whispered.
Jerry: “Let’s bug south.”
Tom: “Buggin’ south”
The Tomcat loved the thick air of low altitude…the afterburners roared thru their five stages…settling on zone five. As they did, the noise grew…sounding like a lion’s roar…flying over the Rangers positions at 200 feet, so low they could see the chard bottom of the Tomcat, where the hot missile exhaust burned the paint. Quickly climbing, the big cat’s nose rotated 70 degrees up, altitude increasing.
Ranger 69: “Thanks Navy. This is Bob Rogers, C.O. of Delta Company…owe you a beer.”
Jerry: “Anytime, Baby. You owe us two. Glad to help. We gotta go. Low on juice.”
Ranger 69: “I’ve never seen anything so big, so low, so fast and so loud.”
Jerry (grinning): “It is kinda cool, isn’t it. Ooo wah, Rangers.”
Ranger 69: “Tomcats forever, Navy.”
Jerry: “Lancelot, Vampire is off-target, heading south, climbing…passing 10,000 feet, fuel at 4.5. Say tanker status.”
Lancelot Control: “Texico is 170, 30 miles, Angels 18.”
Jerry: “Radar Contact.”
Tom: “Hey man…we got four…FOUR!”
Jerry: “One short of being Aces. You imagine us as ‘Aces’?”
Tom: “Nope…you would probably try to doink the news chick who would report our story.”
Jerry: “If she was hot….maybe.”
For the first time in an hour, Jerry took off his oxygen mask, raised his visor and took a deep breath. “We got four,” he whispered. As he wondered if the guy in the chute made it alive, his hands started shaking and he felt warm tears running down his cheeks. “Mom…Dad,” he thought to himself, “please be proud of me for this. Lord, please forgive us.”
Tom: “Hey man, how you feeling.”
Jerry (voice cracking): “I was so scared,” he replied, fumbling with his mask. “Really friggin’ scared!”
Tom: “Yeah…me too, man. Me too.”
“What’s your other sister look like?”