Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chapter Twenty-One


Ramat David Airbase
Wednesday, November 18
4:40 a.m.

“Bombs away,” Rueben transmitted. “I always wanted to say that.”
“Frisbee, stay serious,” Moshe ordered.
“Roger, Dagger. You, my Captain, are no fun at all.”
Moshe ignored the comment. He still had one more target to eliminate before establishing a perimeter patrol along the eastern border. So far, several hundred IDF munitions had burrowed into Hezbollah positions. The effect was devastating. But rockets were still being launched and finding their way toward population centers in Israel, and that angered Moshe. Rueben’s banter didn’t help. Again, the seriousness of the situation seemed to have escaped the younger pilot. That fact alone caused Moshe to long for this twelve-hour duty shift to be over. He looked at the digital GMT on the display. Over three hours remained before his next down time.
Part of his irritation lay elsewhere. Since midday on Tuesday all Israeli airbases had experienced a communications lockdown. Moshe had no way of ascertaining his wife’s status. Was she safe? The question dangled at the edge of every thought, not interfering with his duty or professionalism, but always ready to exert itself whenever he had a lull. Fortunately, the lulls weren’t happening with regularity.
The combat air controller broke in as Moshe began his pre-attack sequence. “Dagger, Dog Pound, we have rocket activity coming out of Jordan. Come left and bear one-zero-three degrees. Prepare to re-task for an air-to-ground.”
“Dog Pound—Dagger—roger. Turning to one-zero-three degrees and waiting re-task,” Moshe responded. Then to Rueben, “That’s odd.”
“What are they firing at?” Rueben asked. “Jerusalem is off limits.”
Moshe’s mind was working on the question. The Arabs had never before taken the risk of harming the Islamic holy sites around the Temple Mount. Random rocket fire was allowed everywhere else but Jerusalem. Since the Israeli takeover of the city in 1967, only individual nut cases had taken it upon themselves to change the status quo of the eternal city.
“Something’s changed,” Moshe replied. “Let’s go high and check it out. Move to angels twelve.”
Rueben responded with two clicks of his transmitter and both fighters shot upwards to twelve thousand feet.
The higher they climbed, the clearer Jerusalem’s glow became on the horizon. Moshe spotted streaks of light slowly arcing through the sky. Some were nearing the city. Others were lifting from western Jordan in the distance. His radar confirmed what his eyes were seeing. The weapons were being fired from the rugged mountains located east of the Dead Sea, and they were aimed at the capital.
Just then Dog Pound control broke into the silence. “Dagger, those rockets are impacting east of the Knesset and Supreme Court compounds. You are ordered to seek-and-destroy the launch points. Repeat, seek and destroy the launch points before rockets begin hitting something important. Tiger flight will assume a patrol position over Samaria.”
“Dog Pound—Dagger, those missiles are coming from Jordan,” Moshe informed.
“Dagger, your missions stands. Go hot!” replied the controller. They were just given permission to fire on a nation that had maintained friendly relations with Israel. Moshe no longer wondered how this was all going to end, just when.
“Let’s do it Frisbee. Move a mile off my nine o’clock and drop to fifteen hundred. We’ll do a pass and see if we can get a visual on the launch points.”
“I’m with you. Frisbee going wide and down.”
The two Lightnings traversed the Judean hills to the Jordan River in just a few seconds then crossed into Jordanian airspace flying in a southeasterly direction. With the northern outskirts of Jerusalem twenty miles off his right wing, Moshe pulled back on the throttle and descended into the widest portion of the valley. Amman Jordan’s distant glow outlined the mountain range to his left.
“Frisbee, move south and follow the King’s Highway. I will skirt Mount Nebo and take the valley toward Queen Alia International Airport.”
Another two clicks sounded in Moshe’s earpiece. He watched as the gap between he and his wingman widened. The King’s Highway was several miles further south and followed a narrow valley that eventually took the traveler to the Saudi border.
Separating the flight in this way carried an elemental risk, but the flash points he’d seen earlier caused him to calculate that the rockets were being fired from somewhere north of Umm ar-Rasas. If he was right Rueben would approach the target location from the south while he bore down at them from the north.
Moshe topped the slope of the eastern range then initiated his Terrain Following Radar. He then shot into the first narrow valley heading east. Set at just under 400 feet, the TFR would jink the Lightning over every Wadi and around every outcrop of the rugged landscape. Looking through his LNTRN infrared night vision made the dead of night seem like late afternoon. Everything was displayed in hues of green and gray.
His HUD allowed him more of a bird’s eye view of the route to his designated end point. The likelihood of there being any active anti-aircraft missiles in the area was slim, but it was only wise to be alert to any possibility. Moshe’s eyes darted from the displays to the horizon and back.
After three minutes, Moshe disengaged the TFR and prepared to pop up over a set of ridges to a point where he believed the nuts were launching rockets at Israel. Moving into attack mode would place him at an altitude in which his aircraft would surely be painted by the Jordanians, but that could not be avoided. His task was to pinpoint the culprits. He would deal with any radar that lit him up in due time.
Moshe could see by Rueben’s dot on the HUD that his wingman was also approaching the point of no return about eight miles to the south. It was time to get precise.
“Dagger is in position and going high for a look into the valley,” he transmitted.
“I’m waiting for the word,” responded Rueben.
Moshe pushed the throttle forward to full military power and soared to two thousand feet in altitude. He then brought the nose of his fighter to the right and dropped his wingtip toward the earth. This allowed him to skirt the easternmost ridge while scoping the entire length and width of the valley. Sure enough, just as he positioned himself a bright streak of rocket exhaust shot skyward. A missile was flying toward Jerusalem.
“Got you,” Moshe muttered to himself. Then to Reuben, “I count three launch points at the south end of the Wadi at your twelve o’clock. They are trailer-mounted and separated by about thirty meters. I’m getting no indication of any opposing surface-to-air.”
“Roger Dagger. How do you want to play it?”
“Dagger will sweep the targets and light them up. Come to attack speed and ready your Mavericks,” Moshe ordered.
“I have two remaining,” answered Rueben.
“Same here. I’ll take what you miss,” Moshe smiled behind his visor.
“Right. Mavericks are ready and in search mode.”
“Targets are lit.” Moshe tasked his last remaining Maverick but did not designate a target for the fire-and-forget weapon.
Rueben topped the ridge at the end of the valley. His missile radar promptly growled a ready status. He designated the first two launch vehicles as targets and fired his weapons from less than a mile away. “Frisbee—Fox Three, Fox Three,” he called the shot.
Moshe watched two flashes of light drill holes in the sky and decimate the targets. He fingered his display and locked his own AGM to the object and fired. “Dagger—Fox Three and bugging out at 280 degrees.”
“I’ll be on your tail in two klicks,” said Rueben.
“Dagger—Dog Pound, you’ve got company rising up out of Amman airport,” broke the controller.
Moshe looked down at his Horizontal Situation Display and saw three blips appear above the Jordanian capital. “I see them, Dog Pound.”
Just then the threat warning sounded. One of the oncoming bogeys had just placed Moshe’s F-16 in missile lock.
“Dog Pound, get me a type on those bogeys,” Moshe transmitted while pulling back on the stick. He needed to get as much maneuvering altitude as possible. Rueben was doing the same less than two miles behind him.
“Dagger—Dog Pound, designate southern four aircraft as F-16A Falcons. I’m also reading three MiG 29 Fulcrums to the north and heading east,” responded the air controller. “Tiger flight is coming hot at your ten o’clock and will challenge the Falcons. Feel free to bloody a couple of MiG 29s. Repeat—you are free to engage.”
“Roger—Dog Pound,” Moshe answered. “Coming right to 026 degrees and going afterburner. Stay on me, Frisbee.” As he spoke, his thumb was moving to designate two of his four Amraam missiles. They began chirping as the distance between the two sets of fighters quickly lessened.
“Lead the way, Captain,” Rueben said, not even attempting to hide his glee for a fight.
The air controller’s voice broke in again, more animated than it was before. “Dagger—Dog Pound, multiple bogeys are coming up out of Queen Alia. They are an assortment of MiG 21’s and MiG 25s. They have to be Iranian. Repeat—you have at least eight Iranian aircraft coming into your kill zone.”
“Roger—Dog Pound,” Moshe transmitted, and then, “Dagger—Fox One, Fox One.” Both AMRAAM missiles were jettisoned from beneath his wings and took up flight toward the oncoming MiG 29s. They quickly achieved a speed of nearly Mach 4. “Frisbee, go low and take out the third Fulcrum if he sticks around. I’m turning into that pack coming out of Queen Alia.”
“I’m on it, Dagger.”
Moshe brought up his last two AMRAAMs and picked out the first two MiG 21 Fishbeds currently rising to altitude. He was certain the Iranian weaponry did not have the same range as his AIM-120s, which was twenty-eight to thirty miles. The second he achieved missile lock he fired. He then hit his afterburner to bring the other MiGs into the range of his AIM-9 Sidewinders. With a quick glance at his Situation Display he saw that Tiger flight was firing on the Jordanian F-16s. The second his Sidewinders growled a steady tone Moshe triggered them onto the MiG 25 Foxbat aircraft.
Seeing enemy MiGs turn tail and run was like watching a flock of birds being scattered. One by one the AMRAAMS hit their targets. The Sidewinders followed a few seconds later. In less than two minutes, Dagger and Tiger flights had downed twelve bogeys. If the Jordanians weren’t at war before, they certainly were now.

Abu Kamal, Eastern Syria
Wednesday, 5:00 a.m.

Tariq Kazimi leaned over the sink and cupped the cool water into his hands. There was nothing like the feel of water on the face as one awakened to a new day, and the way it was already shaping up, this new day would be grand. Ignored during the washing was the lowly conscript who had been tasked with informing the president and supreme commander of all overnight developments. The man shivered in fear, even as the president shivered with delight.
“How many aircraft were lost?” Kazimi demanded as he pulled a small white towel from a rack beside the sink.
“Twelve were downed, Mr. President, and three returned to base in damaged condition.”
“And the Jews? How many of their planes were lost?”
The aide cleared his throat. “Uh, none, sir.”
Kazimi’s eyes came into view as the towel slid down his face. “Not one?”
Fear coursed through the man’s gut. “Not one, sir, but it was not without a gallant effort.”
Kazimi laughed at the conscript’s ignorance at his question. The president could care less about how many losses were incurred on either side, or that Israel had won the first aerial battle of what would surely be the war to end all wars. The fact that the Israeli’s had taken the bait was his concern, and it made him giddy.
He pitched the wet towel into a small hamper beside the sink and moved toward the only window that graced the small room. It faced eastward, which made his preparation for morning prayers much easier. The night sky held no hint of a dawn that was still more than two hours away. There was no moon, nor ambient light from Abu Kamal to disrupt the twinkling lights in the sky. The star’s praise of Allah was nearly as profound as the joy in his heart. The greatest of all his hopes and dreams, to be instrumental in ushering in the Mahdi, was drawing closer to reality. He drew a deep breath and held it for several seconds before exhaling and turning back to the aide.
“Give the order to launch the Scuds. Remind them that death and hell belong to anyone who mistakenly strikes a holy site. Target everything from west Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Fire until dawn.”
The man dipped his head in subservience but did not exit to carry out the order.
“And?” said Kazimi, expressing an element of displeasure.
“Mr. President, the Russians continue to seek clarification on our movements,” said the man with head still bowed and eyes locked on the cracks in the floor.
“Tell them we are moving to help our inflicted Syrian brethren,” replied the President. “Inform them that Syria’s southern forces will soon be joining our own. After that union is accomplished, our combined army will comply with the Russian plan.”
“Yes, Mr. President,” said the aid. The man backed swiftly from the room.
Kazimi folded his arms across his chest and turned back to the stars. A lie in Allah’s service was equal to a sacrifice of praise; so said the Koran in unspecified terms.

Jimmy Root Jr
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