Wednesday, 11:35 p.m.
The impression persisted like an itch that just wouldn’t go away. General Telnikov could not get rid of the feeling that it was imperative that he head back to his headquarters on Mount Quarnat as Sawda. Years of training had honed his intuitive senses, but this seemed to flow from somewhere in his gut rather than his brain. He decided to listen.
“Lieutenant,” Telnikov spoke to the communications officer, “re-call my transport immediately. I am leaving.”
“Da General,” the man replied.
Telnikov didn’t linger to hear the call for the return of the helicopter gunship. Pulling on his outer jacket to stave off the night chill, the general headed for the door of the listening post.
Just then, another officer raised his voice in alarm. “General, we have incoming aircraft bearing 3-5-2 degrees and moving fast.”
Telnikov heard the heavy thumping sound. His chopper had arrived. “What type of aircraft and whose?”
“Eight Israeli F-15s sir.”
Radio my transport and tell him to turn on his transponder, now!” shouted the General, “and tell him to switch off all other radar.” He then opened the door and ran for the helicopter just as its wheels touched the hard surface of the ground.
The side door of the chopper opened and a crewman extended his hand to pull the General inside. He wasted no time. “Lift off and get us out of here immediately!” yelled to the pilot above the din of the aircraft’s screaming engine. Then he threw himself into the seat and strapped himself in. By the time he donned the headset the pilot was already twenty feet above the ground and accelerating forward.
Just as the pilot banked the big chopper over the side of Mount Herman’s western flank, the forward listening post exploded in a pulsating fireball. Telnikov knew the men inside had no chance of survival.
The pilot reacted instinctively by accelerating to attack speed and whipping the nose of the Hind around to allow his infrared tracking system to lock onto the heat of the Israeli jets.
“Do not fire,” Telnikov commanded the pilot. “Do not fire. Get me back to Quarnat at top speed.”
The pilot hesitated for just an instant.
“Pilot, do as I command,” growled the general.
Slowly the nose of the Hind dropped and the chopper pivoted in the direction of Bekaa Valley. As it turned, Telnikov saw a series of fiery explosion all along the Israeli/Lebanese border stretching to the east. The Israelis were demonstrating a vicious resolve to defend their country. He knew it was only going to become more violent.
Moshe could make out a dim glow ahead which meant he was now within the outer marker of the Saudi airbase. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, more to focus his mind than to relax his body. He’d been in enough combat situations to trust his physical reflexes and reactions, but his mind had to be clear. He flexed the fingers of his stick as he prepared to disengage the autopilot.
Suddenly the air controller’s voice broke through the steady hum of his engine. “Dagger—Dog Pound—be advised an AWAC just came on line over Bagdad. That means activity over Iraq is probable.”
“Roger—Dog Pound—we are nearing our entry point into the target. Keep me up to speed.”
“That’s a go, Dagger.”
A hasty American pull-out from Iraq was nearly complete. But four squadrons of American FA-18 Hornets were still deployed in Baghdad to maintain control of the skies. They were the last thing Moshe wanted to be thinking about. The Hornets were not only piloted by the best fighter drivers the United States had to offer, the planes were also stealthy and fast. Hopefully, the Americans were only interested in watching the fireworks from a distance. But since the US had turned its back on Israel, and most of their forces had pulled out of the region, it was impossible to know what they’d do.
Focus in Moshe, he thought to himself. The lights of Hafar al-Batin were glowing just over the ridge in front of him.
Tracers suddenly began shooting up into the night sky at various angles.
“All flights,” Moshe radioed to his team, “we have Triple-A ack-ack. The Saudis know we’re here.” The systems were fired by soldiers without the aid of radar, meaning the accuracy of the defense was poor. But because they were firing twenty caliber bullets into the air, they were still dangerous for any hostile fighter jets that came into the line of fire.
“Frisbee, it’s time to play,” Moshe advised his wingman. “I’m going to pop over this ridge and start my attack run on the S-300 before it can spool up and fire. Dodge that ack-ack and follow me in. Take out whatever looks like trouble, but concentrate on finding the 300s.”
“Roger, let’s do this,” Rueben answered with his usual thrill for a fight.
Moshe reached down and pushed his keypad to disengage the autopilot. He then set his maverick into search mode while initiating his radar jamming system. He would have only one shot at the first S-300 launcher before it reacted to his presence. He wanted the vehicle destroyed and its operators dead before they could put a missile onto his heat signature.
The ridge was coming up fast and was just over five hundred feet above the desert floor at its crest. Moshe pulled on the flight stick and cleared it by twenty feet. Hafar-al-Batin stretch out before him from left to right at two miles distance. He threw his throttle forward to full military power and scanned for a route to thread the Triple-A platforms positioned around the base. The AGM-64 Mavericks under his wings were scanning for the S-300 like a hunter sniffing out his prey. He could hear the low growl in his headset.
Flak fired skyward directly in his path, forcing him to tweak the flight stick to the left. Just then the growl in his ears turned to a steady, high-pitched tone. The Maverick had locked on a launch radar. Moshe fired his first weapon and turned parallel to the airbase runway. If his guess that the S-300s had been situated in a star pattern around the base was correct, he would be heading directly towards one now. He waited only three seconds before his second Maverick captured the target. Moshe immediately thumbed the stick to fire the weapon. The Maverick shot from beneath his wings and flew right over the top of a large structure on its way into the darkness.
At that moment he noticed the fiery exhaust of two fighter jets barreling down the runway. Saudi F-16C Falcons were launching into the sky. Another pair was maneuvering off the breezeway and onto the runway to follow their fellow fighters.
Moshe switched to his AIM-120 Sidewinders and waited for a tone. Once he got it, he fired two missiles.
“Frisbee, two Falcons are lining up on the runway. Burn ‘em!” Moshe ordered his wingman.
“They’re mine,” said Rueben.
Bright fireballs blossomed less than two miles off the end of the runway. The first set of Saudi Falcons had been destroyed.
Moshe glanced out his canopy toward the tarmac as he swept over the base. Multiple Falcons were armed and preparing to launch. Pulling a hard turn he cut loose on the Saudi aircraft with his canon. He felt like he was doing target practice in a simulator. The Saudis were sitting ducks. Each hit made by an incendiary round resulted in an explosion. In just one sweep of the field he had destroyed, or rendered inoperable, most of F-16s on the base.
Moshe maneuvered to his right and attacked three mobile Triple-A gun units. As of yet, no S-300s had locked onto his signature, nor had his threat warning sounded beyond a chirp. He was aware of a dangerous characteristic of the S-300. The missile had the ability to scan for targets while it was in flight. All an operator had to do was launch. The technology built into the infra-red system of the 300 did the rest. This was a major advance over the American-built Patriot system that required a radar lock with the bogey before it was fired. However, the more immediate danger was the Triple-A guns.
Moshe threw his stick hard to the right and curled back toward the base. Two more guns were placed at the western corner of the field and were firing in all directions. He triggered his canon and walked a steady stream of 20 millimeter rounds into the targets. Two more guns were out of action. With another twitch he brought the Lightning around the west and began to hunt for another S-300 emplacement.
“Frisbee, come around from the east and take out the Triple-A in that quadrant of the field. I’m going hunting.”
Just as Moshe glanced down at his Horizontal-Situation-Display, Rueben’s panicked voice sounded over the radio. “My threat warning just started screaming. I’ve got a 300 locked on my tail.”
“Start pumping chaff and get over those fires on the base,” shouted Moshe. “Lose it in the heat.”
Moshe’s threat warning was still chirping but had detected no missile lock on his Lightning. How long that would last he had no way of knowing. One thing was certain. He had to find and attack the other two launchers or both he and Rueben were as good as dead.
Jimmy Root Jr
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