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Subject: Operation Adamant Halo - "Sunday Drivers, Part 1" rss

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"The destiny of nations is shaped by the plangent vicissitude of destroying enemy flattops, interdicting their convoys, and severing their reinforcements and supply lines. And, if you make ace along the way... well, that's just gravy."
"The destiny of nations is shaped by the plangent vicissitude of destroying enemy flattops, interdicting their convoys, and severing their reinforcements and supply lines. And, if you make ace along the way... well, that's just gravy."
Chippy Flight off USS George Washington// 1024 hrs // South China Sea

It was a bright Sunday morning over the South China Sea, when the peace and quiet was uncharacteristically rent by thunder. A Hornet of VFA-195 "Dambusters", callsign COWBOY, was conducting a lone patrol in support of Freedom of Navigation (FON) operations by the George Washington carrier group. MUSTANG was supposed to have flown with him, but her bird had blown a gasket during pre-launch, leaving him to conduct the patrol solo. COWBOY was cruising at altitude, and beneath him, a serene carpet of sea and sky drifted by in a surreal slow motion.

This was a 1-vs-2 scenario, with a USN F/A-18 Hornet (105 VP) vs two PLAAF Chengdu J-7E Fishcans (using Iraq MiG-21 Fishbed-Cs in lieu) (97 VP). Specific mission conditions are:
* The Hornet cannot fire first, unless a hostile act has been witnessed (i.e. when fired upon; Tone does not count.)
* If the Hornet achieves continuous Tone on a Fishcan for three consecutive turns, the Fishcan must disengage from the fight.
* The Fishcans cannot shoot from a Neutral position.

Victory conditions:
* USN wins if the Hornet survives, with at least one Fishcan disengaged.
* PLAAF wins if the Hornet is downed with no losses.
* Any other result is a draw.

Starting altitude for COWBOY was High, Bandits Low, both at AH range. COWBOY chose to let Bandits go first.

"Chippy One, this is Battlestar. You have two bogeys headed your way, hot, eight miles out, angels twelve."

COWBOY was not surprised. The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) was up to their usual nonsense again. He switched his APG-73 radar from standby to range-while-search mode, and banked into a slow turn toward the bogeys.

"Copy that, Battlestar. Checking them out."

The RWR suite quickly identified their radar emissions as the Italian-made Pointer 2500, which told COWBOY that these were Chengdu J-7Es, NATO reporting name Fishcan; basically, a licensed copy of the redoubtable MiG-21 Fishbed. This variant had been retooled by the Chinese for increased range and maneuverability, but at the cost of only having short-range radar. In different circumstances, the radar-homing Sparrows on his Hornet could take them out before the evolution reached visual range, but under present Rules of Engagement (ROE), he was not authorized to fire unless "witness to a hostile act", i.e. getting fired upon first.

COWBOY decided to let the bogeys come to him. He wasn't in hostile territory yet, and the Alert-5 backup from GW was at least eight minutes away if he needed reinforcements. Whatever happened next, he was on his own.

The Fishcans were at low altitude, but they must have seen him, increasing their speed and altitude. The radar display on his MFD bleeped again, and he saw that they had split up: the lead Fishcan was accelerating hard and moving up through the cloud cover, but his wingman was hanging back. Interesting move.

Rounds 1-2
First two rounds had the Bandits maneuvering for position, with Bandit-01 closing to Guns range at Med altitude, Bandit-02 hanging back at RH range at Low altitude. COWBOY dropped to HS range at Med altitude, keeping position at Neutral.

COWBOY tapped his comms. "Tallyho! I have a visual on a Fishcan-C, eleven o'clock low, bearing 343."

The venerable interceptor was drfiting upward through the clouds, with its distinctive delta-wing, painted in dark green and brown livery, and traffic-cone yellow radome. His wingman was nowhere to be seen, but COWBOY was certain he was lurking somewhere under the cloud cover.

The AN/ALQ-214 countermeasures system began to warble in his headset, signalling that the approaching Fishcan was painting him with an infrared seeker. COWBOY knew that the PLAAF could have upgraded some of their homebrew fighters with a smorgasbord of third-party avionics systems, and he did not want any surprises.

His adversary was moving very fast, pushing 600 knots as he closed. COWBOY firewalled his throttles to full, feeling the massive kick in his butt, pulling 4- closing on 5-Gs, as both aircraft approached head-on.

The other fighter flashed past, close enough for COWBOY to see the upturned helmet and face staring back at him, before it was gone in a flash of dark speeding metal. Throttling back to maintain airspeed, COWBOY banked the Hornet hard to starboard, ignoring the sensations of his innards trying to rearrange themselves. He rolled the Hornet over coming out of the turn, framing the Fishcan silhouette in his HUD, anticipating what his opponent would do next.

Round 3
Maintaining altitude and range, Bandit-01 played a Tone, although the mission condition did not allow launch. Bandit-02 closed to Guns range unchallenged. COWBOY played into an Advantaged position on Bandit-01, and played for Tone.

A new quavering warning tone sounded in his head, plangent and demanding, as COWBOY realised that the lead Fishcan had made a feint, setting him up for the wingman. It was the most basic sandwich maneuver, dating back to the dawn of air combat, and COWBOY had flown straight into it.

Angling his head to the rear starboard quarter, COWBOY now spotted the second Fishcan bursting through the clouds, afterburners blazing, laden with a full quiver of PL-7 anti-aircraft missiles. While the lead Fishcan had kept him busy maneuvering, the second Fishcan had closed to missile range and drawn a bead on him.

And then, one of those missiles leapt off the rails, igniting with a black puff of smoke, a dark finger of death reaching out for him as it accelerated. The warbling increased in intensity, as COWBOY instinctively turned into the missile's vector, pulling a hard 6-G turn whilst the countermeasures system punched out a sequence of flares. He pressed forward hard on the stick, with a good dose of rudder and flaps, and the world outside tilted from azure sky to silvery cloud grey to deep sea green in a dizzying blend.

The PL-7 was a reverse-engineered copy of the French Magic R.550 heat-seeker. It didn't have much range, but it was highly maneuverable, and as long as the warbling continued, deserved every ounce of respect. COWBOY threw the Hornet into another wingover, banking hard to port, dispensing a second pattern of flares, throttling back to idle to reduce heat signature, and speedbrake now fully extended to grasp at the tenuous airstream and remain flightworthy.

The reversal was completed just in time for COWBOY to see the missile overshoot, the shimmering haze of its tailpipe almost close enough to touch. The warbling stopped. The missile had left behind a corkscrew contrail where it had attempted to keep up with his mad jinking, before finally losing interest and trailing off in a downward parabola into the ocean.

Round 4 (Bandits)
Both Bandits continued to maneuver for position, and played Tone. Bandit-01 remained in Neutral and did not fire; Bandit-02 was able to gain an Advantaged position with Tone, and fired a Missile. COWBOY was able to evade, launching CM.

To Be Continued...
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