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#4399676 - 01/12/18 11:58 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign Chapters 1-5 [Re: Fittop]  
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Originally Posted by Fittop
Sir:

Just stumbled into this. Thank you.
I am hooked already.


Thanks! Really glad you are enjoying it. Spread the word, the more reading and commenting, the better it will be I am sure!

H


So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, besides this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong sweep to death?

H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914.
Inline advert (2nd and 3rd post)

#4399902 - 01/14/18 04:48 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign Chapters 1-5 [Re: HeinKill]  
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Very Good so far HeinKill.


"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past."
Patrick Henry 1775

I personally believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and that deficit spending is sustainable forever. We really do need more Admirals in the Navy than ships and that millions of more poor immigrants will jump start the economy.

"There's a sucker born every minute."
Phineas Taylor Barnum

#4400535 - 01/17/18 03:07 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign Updated: CH. 6 [Re: HeinKill]  
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Thx! Next chapter on the way, just proofing...

[Linked Image]


So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, besides this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong sweep to death?

H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914.
#4400808 - 01/18/18 09:01 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign Updated: CH. 6 [Re: HeinKill]  
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Ch. 6

BOOMERANG


[Linked Image]

When Rodriguez’s shooter declared the electromagnetic catapult operational, word spread through the Rock like Severin had put a post on Twitter. There were currently thirty seven other people serving underground in the base and it seemed all thirty seven of them had some reason to be working in the docks or on the deck somewhere where they had a good view of the Chute. She couldn’t blame them - it was the Rock’s first operational launch in weeks. Until now, they had only had simulations, and then three test flights, before the cat crew had pulled the catapult offline. Tonight they would be putting three drones in the air and seeing how fast they could do it. The target was one machine every three minutes, half a ‘hex’, or three machines, inside ten minutes. She sighed. If they were to be certified combat capable, that’s what it would take, so they may as well start as they meant to finish; but it would strain both her people, and the cantankerous cat.

She looked around the launch bay. When she was down on the ‘flight deck’ or in her trailer up behind the dock for a launch, she wore a yellow Air Boss shirt over her green flight suit with its simple squadron commander gold oak leaf on the shoulder.

Half of her 12 man crew was finalizing preflight checks on the drone, the other one was operating the EMALS and its feeder system. It was supposed to be an almost fully automated system, but something always glitched. Unlike on a carrier, the Fantoms under Little Diomede were originally designed for ‘cartridge launch’ - made to be launched off the back of a truck like an old ICBM, fitted into launch canisters and fired into flight by the a rocket propelled launch arm like a bullet out of a gun. Here under the Rock, they’d modded the canister system and put the canisters on a conveyor belt so that a whole hex could be loaded onto the EMALS and launched one after the other in quick succession. Supposedly, once they were preflighted and loaded into the canisters, it only took one plane handler to lock the drone into the catapult shuttle and a single shooter to operate the launch system. That was the theory anyway.

“You miss being up in pri-fly Boss?” a voice said from behind her. “The grand ballet of colored shirts, smell of jet fuel and Red Bull…” She recognized the voice of Commander Justin Halifax. He was the senior officer on Little Diomede, CO of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station or NCTAMS and therefore her senior officer. He commanded the communications station and dock operations but he wasn’t an aviator, so he left day to day flight operations largely to her.

Nonetheless the lure of a launch had pulled even him down from topside. He had an office and quarters in the radar installation which was the Navy’s cover on Little Diomede, and only took the elevator down to the cavern every few days to check on progress or investigate the frequent hiccups. Rodriguez’s private theory was that he was claustrophobic, but that was OK, because that meant with nearly half of all personnel under the Rock under her command, she had a pretty free hand down here.

“Miss my shooter’s position more to be honest Sir,” she said with a smile, not turning around, “Less ballet, more rock and roll.”

Halifax looked around the cavern, “Everything still on track for launch?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got the EMALS pulling like it should now. We’re good to go.”

“Good,” he nodded. “We have to start ramping up the test flights, Lieutenant Commander. We’re two days behind,” he pointed out.

“Yes sir.” Rodriguez looked over to the trailer parked at the top of the submarine dock, where she knew Bunny O’Hare would be sat at her bank of screens, going through her own pre-flight routine. “We’re still short a pilot Sir.”

Halifax looked annoyed at being reminded, “I know. We’re not exactly top priority down here, with all the #%&*$# going down in Korea right now. I heard they deployed two more squadrons of Fantoms there this week.”

“I've said it before but we didn’t need the pilots based here sir,” Rodriguez said. “You can fly a Fantom from anywhere in the world, Vegas to Guam. My pilots don’t have to have their a**es parked in that trailer.”

“Survivability, Rodriguez,” Halifax explained. “This base is intended to be able to ride out a first strike on airfields in Alaska and enable us to re-establish air superiority. Russians take out our air bases and satellites, they think they’ve taken out our drone command and control. They know they’ve got a numerical advantage in piloted aircraft, so they think our drone comms are our soft underbelly. Which is why we’re putting more and more drones into truck mounted canisters piloted by short range comms, not satellites. And they’re in for a hell of a shock when they suddenly see your airplanes filling their skies, flown out of that trailer over there and steered by a hard wired undersea comms array.”

“If they take out our satellites, the next thing they’ll do is take out your radar dome topside. Wouldn’t it make sense to have some ground to air missile defenses up there?”

“That dome is just one big decoy Boss, you know that. Nothing inside it but a forty year old DEW line AN/FPS-19 search radar blasting out as much radiation as it can, and the elevator to your little cubby hole down here. If we gave the Russians any reason to believe we had put ground to air missiles on Little Diomede, ten miles from the Russian mainland, there would be hell to pay.”

Rodriguez knew the old DEW line long range radar plugged into the NORAD surveillance net didn’t provide much data that wasn’t already available from other ground radar stations in Alaska, or by satellite surveillance, but it still made little sense to her to leave it completely undefended against air attack. Oh well, hers was not to reason why…

From down by the flight deck she saw men in green jackets who had been crouched around the locking bar on the drone stand up, and her yellow jacketed catapult officer spun around and gave her a thumbs up.

“Roger Cat 1. Moving to the Island,” Rodriguez said into her mike. The Island was the nickname they gave the to the drone command trailer, which here served a similar function to primary flight control inside the command island on a carrier. “If you’ll excuse me Sir?” Halifax had told her he wanted to be topside for the launch, standing over the lip of the chute to see how visible the drone was exiting the cave at night. Baffles should mask the exhaust from the naked eye, and Navy had an infrared satellite parked overhead for this test flight, trying to pick up a signature, but he had wanted to see for himself.

“Actually I’ll come with you, I need to talk to O’Hare,” he said.

Rodriguez frowned, but led the way across the dock to the trailer and thumbed the lock on the door to let her and the CO in. The trailer was parked broadside to the flight deck, and had been modified from a standard drone control center, being lengthened by about ten feet with the addition of a stool, extra comms gear and windows to allow Rodriguez to look out on the catapult and recovery dock. Otherwise it was a standard drone trailer, with a bank of screens in front of two chairs, one for the pilot, and the other for the co-pilot or systems operator controlling cameras and targeting systems. That chair was empty, as Rodriguez had pointed out.

“CO on deck,” Rodriguez said as she pulled open the door.

“As you were,” Halifax said before O’Hare could react. She was busy punching data into touch screens in front of her.

“On track for launch 0300 hours sir and ma’am,” Bunny said without taking her eyes off her screens. “Fantom is singing like a bird.” She pointed to data from the drone, streaming across a screen. Rodriguez had no idea what it meant, but Bunny sounded satisfied.

“Good, I have a change of target for you. Requires a new mission profile,” Halifax said. He had a tablet under his arm and held it up then tapped away at it, “Sending to you now.”

He finished sending and handed the tablet to Rodriguez. Now she understood why Halifax had sounded a little mysterious. The original flight plan had called for Bunny’s Fantom to exit the Rock and head east toward the Alaskan coast to the Yukon Delta, test its cameras with some night vision shots of a fishing camp near Dall Lake and get safely home again, hugging the terrain and wave tops to try to stay off radar. Now she could see they were being given some sort of test, to see how Rodriguez and her team performed under pressure. Change the target at the last minute, change the mission profile, stand back and watch the chaos unfold. Well, if Halifax wanted to see her stressed, he’d be disappointed, she’d make damn sure of that.

Bunny opened a dark screen and pulled up the data Halifax had sent her. Now she turned around, a puzzled look on her face. “The target is Eielson Air Base?” she said.

“Correct Lieutenant,” Halifax smiled. “Someone in the Pentagon thought it would be a good test of Air Force early warning systems to see how close you can get one of your drones to Eielson field before they threaten to shoot it down. You have mode 7 crypto IFF on your machines, correct?”

“Yes sir,” Bunny replied, still sounding dubious.

“Then monitor air force comms and keep the IFF off until we pick up an imminent shoot down order,” Halifax said. “The exercise will conclude either when you have simulated a missile launch on Eielson, or when you are forced to light up your IFF.”

Bunny bent to her screens and started punching in the new data.

“If we even get close, this will do wonders for Navy - Air Force relations sir,” Rodriguez said, smiling.

Halifax looked across at her, putting his tablet back under his arm, “Stop grinning Air Boss. The new mission profile calls for an F-47 in ground-attack configuration, not recon.” He glanced down at his watch. “Your people have 23 minutes to pull that Fantom off the deck and reload it with standoff ordnance.”
*
*
SCOTTISH VODKA

It was 0120 by the time Bondarev was finished with his staff meetings and felt comfortable preparations were in hand. The first task had been convincing his officers that this was not just an exercise … they were about to conduct the first sanctioned Russian attack on US territory in history. The fact Saint Lawrence Island was only 60 miles from the Russian Chukchi Peninsula was irrelevant. Bondarev and his men knew it might as well be Washington DC, the way the USA would inevitably react to Russian troops on US soil.

Bondarev was third generation Russian Federation military. He didn’t question the orders of his political masters, not in front of his subordinates anyway. But if he was to be part of starting a world war, he wanted to know why, and he knew it wasn’t because some shipping magnate had lost one of his shiny new toys.

Arsharvin’s office was actually two rooms joined by a door. Bondarev walked in to a scene that looked like the one he had just left; tired men poring over maps and screens. It also looked like he had walked in on an argument, but they jumped to attention when they saw him.

“At ease,” Bondarev sighed and pointed at the door to the inner office. “The boss in there?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but walked over and tapped on the door with the neck of the Scotch bottle he was carrying.

“Come in!” Arsharvin boomed, and Bondarev pushed the door open to find his friend leaning back in his chair, boots up on his desk, staring at the ceiling with a telephone to his ear. He smiled at Bondarev and pointed at a chair, then a tray with empty glasses, holding up a finger to show his call was nearly finished.

Bondarev unscrewed the cap of the bottle and poured a generous measure into each glass as Arsharvin put his phone down. He got up, closed the door and then took the bottle Bondarev was holding, nodding appreciatively, “Macallan 25?”

“Might as well enjoy it while we can still get it,” Bondarev said.

“It will be worth twice as much on the black market a week from now,” Arsharvin pointed out to him. “After the US slaps on sanctions.”

“Yeah, but what good is money to a dead man?” Bondarev said, slumping into a chair. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Arsharvin parked his backside on his desk. He was tall, carrying about 20 lbs. above his fighting weight, but broad shoulders and a square jaw took away any temptation an observer might have to think he was going soft. “I won’t lie,” he said. “You could be on the front line of World War Three in a week’s time. You’re not likely to see your next birthday.”

“Cheers then,” Bondarev said dryly, throwing down his scotch and letting the taste dwell in his mouth before he poured another. “What the hell Ivor?” Bondarev asked. “The polar shipping route is so important we’re willing to risk nuclear annihilation for it?”

“No. This isn’t about ships, shipping routes or international trade my friend,” Arsharvin said.

“What then?”

Arsharvin finished his own shot, reached for the bottle and helped himself, “To answer that, I have to take you back to a meeting I attended a year ago in Vladivostok.”

Bondarev groaned, “You’re going to tell me how you met President Navalny again.”

“Yes and no. I told you I met him, I didn’t tell you why.”

“A briefing on Far East resources I think you said. ‘Pivot to the Pacific’ blah blah blah. Sorry, I probably fell asleep while you were explaining.”

“And you thought the President would travel all the way to Vladi-bloody-vostok for a boring briefing on Far East resources?”

“I don’t recall thinking much at all except how tiresome it was listening to you name dropping about your top secret Far East intelligence committee meetings again.”

“Russia is dying my friend,” Arsharvin said. And he said it with such surety that Bondarev stifled the laugh that was forming in his throat.

He waved his hand dismissively, “Moscow is corrupt yes, but it has always been. Our economic partnership and trade pacts with China mean our economy has not been stronger for a hundred years. Chelyabinsk is now the third biggest city in Russia. Anadyr will soon be bigger than Vladivostok. What do you mean, dying?”

“This is different Yevgeny. I’m not talking about trade, I’m talking pure human survival.” Arsharvin put down his whiskey glass and reached behind him, picking up a bottle of water. He uncapped it and slowly poured himself a glass, then held it out for Bondarev. Bondarev downed his whiskey and held out his glass, confused. Arsharvin filled it, and then clinked his glass against Bondarev’s before drinking the water down. He held his glass up to the light, “Enjoy it. Because it’s soon going to be more precious than your 25 year old whiskey.”

“I don’t get you,” Bondarev admitted.

“Remember at military college, you and I, we used to argue about peak oil?” Arsharvin asked.

“Sure. You said the next world war would be over oil, and I said that renewables would solve the problem before it got that bad,” Bondarev said. “And I was right.”

“You were. But we were arguing about the wrong thing,” Arsharvin said.

“So what’s the right thing if it’s not peak oil?”

“Peak water. And we passed it ten years ago without the world even knowing it.”

Now Bondarev laughed. He pointed out the window, “Head that way to the coast. You’ll hit the Sea of Japan. East of there is the biggest body of water on the planet, the Pacific Ocean. Follow that far enough, you’ll hit the Atlantic. This planet is 70 percent water Ivor.”

“Salt water my friend. Salt. I am talking about peak freshwater.”

Bondarev reached over and poured some more water into Arsharvin’s glass, before pouring himself another whiskey. “You never heard of desalinization? What do you think you have been drinking the last 20 years? Mountain fresh spring water? Every city lives on desalinated water - Moscow pipes it from Saint Petersburg since Lake Kljasma dried up, but so what?”

“That’s the whole point you fool!” Arsharvin said. “We can supply the big cities, but the smaller cities and towns, they have been living off whatever they can pull out of poisoned rivers and lakes, or suck out of the melting permafrost. The meeting I was at, it had the title, Coming water shortages.”

Bondarev scoffed, “Since I was a boy there have been water shortages. Then they bring another desal plant online, and everyone relaxes again.”

“Not like this. Within ten years Yevgeny, 40 million Russians will be without water. If we built a new desalination plant every day for the next two years, we couldn’t provide for that many people, and that’s if we had the time and money to build all those plants and pipelines, which we don’t.”

“The pipeline to Scandinavia,” Bondarev said, trying to absorb what Arsharvin was saying. “I thought that…”

“Will buy us five years, and is already accounted for. Plus it puts us at the mercy of Europe, which could bring us to our knees just by turning off a tap. The Middle East is already tearing itself apart over water, did you think we were immune?”

Bondarev was quiet, staring into his glass. Water? Seriously? “Wait, what does the Bering Strait have to do with this? Polar ice or something?”

Now it Arsharvin’s turn to laugh. “Polar ice? What polar ice?” he asked. “It’s melting at an exponential rate. That’s why we can sail the northern route even in winter now. But you aren’t completely wrong.”

“What then?”

“As that ice cap melts, all that beautiful freshwater goes somewhere. Into the sea, most of it, raising the sea level. Some into Canada, a little into our northern territories - not enough of it though, we are too far from the pack ice now. But there is one place where the glaciers reach down from the pole into mountains and valleys and canyons and become huge raging rivers and lakes of pure, fresh water.”

“Not Saint Lawrence Island, I’m guessing,” Bondarev said.

“No, but close. Alaska accounts for more than forty percent of US freshwater reserves. The Yukon River alone delivers 6,000 cubic meters of fresh water into the Barents Sea near Nome every second! That’s close to the flow of the Volga, three times the flow of the Nile River. With a dam on the Yukon feeding our Far East expansion, we could rule the world.”

Bondarev felt his fist tightening on his small glass, and realized he was in danger of crushing it before he relaxed his grip.

Arsharvin saw his white knuckles, “That’s right Yevgeny. We are going to take Alaska.”

*
*
[Linked Image]

Back at his quarters an hour later Bondarev lay in his bed, still wide awake. Were they insane? No matter how weak the backbone of the Americans when it came to intervening in other people’s wars, they would nuke Moscow to glowing green slag before they would let Russia walk into Alaska. The thought made Bondarev see how desperate the Russian leadership must feel. It was the act of a doomed State that had decided it had nothing to lose.

There was a chance, just a small one, that the Russian action would be so swift, so unexpected, that the US would have no time to react. Arsharvin had revealed the strategic broad strokes to him. First they would take Saint Lawrence, which would send the US politicians into apoplectic fits. They would mobilize their reserves, of that there was no doubt. But the bulk of their armed forces were engaged in the Middle East and Asia - so the reserves they could call on at short notice were older, less effectual national guard units. If the American politicians bought the cover story of a crisis over international shipping rights, they would spend most of their energy on pointless diplomacy. By the time they realized they were dealing with an invasion, it would be too late.

Alaska was a barely populated State, with a token military presence. The Russian plan relied on surprise. Using the emergency in the Bering Strait to justify pre-positioning forces and raising its alert level, Russian troops would in short order leapfrog from Saint Lawrence to take US military installations in Alaska and secure the western most city in the USA, Nome. The critical point, the one on which the plan would stand or fall, was the ability of Russian air and sea transport to land sufficient ground troops in Western Alaska to enable them to control events on the ground.

Moscow would not threaten the major Alaskan population centers of Juneau, Fairbanks or Anchorage, it would not use nuclear weapons and it was banking on the weak, indecisive US leadership to blink before resorting to its own nuclear arsenal, both out of moral weakness, but also out of the fear it would be killing its own citizens.

Within a week, perhaps two, Russia would have secured Nome and the vital Yukon River basin and would be negotiating a cease fire.

Bondarev cursed, switched on his bedside lamp, and sat up. He pulled his tablet over and turned it on, calling up the latest report on the disposition of his 6983rd Air Force. On a screen in Moscow, it no doubt looked formidable - under President Navalny the Russian military was as strong as it had been since the cold war. The report in front of him told a slightly different story.

His command comprised eight squadrons, but one was a rotary winged command transport unit, and another was a strategic bomber ‘graveyard’; a parking lot for obsolete Tu-22m Backfire bombers.

Of the other six, one was a group of 48 Okhotnik UCAVs attached to his personal command based at Kurba. The Okhotnik or ‘Hunter’ was a stealth drone based on the same platform as the piloted Su-57 but with an avionics suite optimized for ground attack. In that role it was designed to be operated by ‘near-line-of sight’ communications, in which radio signals from a ground station were relayed to the drones via an orbiting AWACS aircraft. It meant they had an operational radius of only 600 miles from their base, but it also meant their pilots could control them manually with no input lag. Theoretically the drones could be used in air-air combat, or beyond a range of 600 miles if executing an autonomous AI directed attack, but these applications fell outside Russian drone doctrine orthodoxy. The Okhotnik was a close air support platform, and close meant close.

Bondarev had a further 78 ground attack aircraft in the 3rd and 7th Air Regiments, but these were 4th generation Su-34s, lacking in any stealth capability.

His primary air defense units were the aircraft of the 4th and 5th Air Regiments, comprising 30 and 32 Su-57s respectively, and he had just given orders to move these to the new 8th Air Regiment base at Lavrentiya, from where they could cover all of Western Alaska as needed.
The remaining two units were the 6th Air Regiment strategic airlift squadron comprising 12 An-124 transport aircraft and the Beriev A-50W Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft of the 8th Air Regiment.

The reality was that his 6983rd Air Force was designed to fight and support a ground defense of Russia in a time before the current détente with China, and not an operation like LOSOS which would require him primarily to fight his enemy air-to-air. For that, he had only 62 Su-57s, and could press his Okhotniks into an air-air role if needed, but their weapon bays were optimized for air-to-ground ordnance; they could carry only four air-to-air missiles to the Su-57s six.

There was another problem.

While his personal unit of 48 Okhotniks was nominally at full strength, the Russian drones required two men to fly each. Unlike the US drones, several subordinate drones could not be slaved to a master drone flown by a single pilot. Each Okhotnik required one pilot and a weapons and systems officer, flying them from ground based stations. Unlike the weaker command and control system of the US drones, which was over-reliant on vulnerable satellite communications for command inputs, the Russian drones were highly mobile – they could fly off almost any strip of dirt and were transported easily by train or truck - and they used encrypted digital shortwave for communications. His men and aircraft could be dispersed across hundreds of kilometers of front, and yet still be coordinated as a single attacking unit. It was a difference in strategy that had proven itself in combat on multiple occasions - it was easy for Russian forces to find and disable enemy airfields or depots, but almost impossible for their enemy to do the same, so widely dispersed were the Russian pilots and their drones.

If he had the pilots and weapons officers he needed, that is. The 6983rd Hunter Regiment was still in a buildup phase. Its aircraft were all on line, but only 80 percent of its aircrew were. He could use almost any pilot certified for one of the Russian fighter marques, but the weapons and systems used by the new drones were not widely used and the all aspect air-to-air missile system in particular was barely more than a prototype, it’s deployable rotary loading system jamming if deployed at high speeds or high Gs. Too few systems officers had been certified to operate the Okhotnik and training was taking far too long. Too long by peacetime standards, impossibly long if they were going to war. Bondarev had only 38 crewed drones ready for what was to come.

It was why he had asked Lukin if he could call on the resources of Central Command, which he knew numbered at least 80 fighter aircraft, both Su-57s and the newer Mig-41 air superiority fighters only now being delivered into service. As importantly, he wanted access to its 6980th Air Regiment Okhotnik crews.

Bondarev was a realist, not an optimist, and that had served him well in his career so far. He would always try to under promise and over-deliver, ensuring he had more than enough assets at hand for the task he was given. Right now, yes, he had the assets he needed to secure the airspace over Saint Lawrence for a few days. But to achieve air superiority over Western Alaska, if that was the long game?

That thought led him to speculate on the long game, occupying Western Alaska and controlling the Yukon River basin. He could see why Nome was the key, and the strategy for taking Nome included denying the small airfield at Saint Lawrence to the Americans.

Built to service the US communications base at Savoonga, it was capable of landing both fighters and heavy aircraft and one to two squadrons could easily stage out of there. Denying it to the Americans meant they would need to fly out of their Eielson or Elmendorf-Richardson air bases, each 600 miles from Nome. And if the ultimate plan was to knock out Eielson and Elmendorf-Richardson, which is what Bondarev would do, then the US fighters would be forced back to mainland USA, with their nearest air force bases 1,800 miles from Nome in Washington State, making it almost impossible for them to contest the airspace over Western Alaska against Russian forces which were flying less than a couple hundred miles to cover the same operations area.

The US might react angrily to events on Saint Lawrence, and Bondarev expected to lose good men as it lashed out. But when Russia moved against Alaska, he had no doubt the American Grizzly would wake from its recent hibernation and strike back with bared claws.

His hand jerked and he nearly dropped the tablet. He closed it down and laid it back down on the bedside table. Sleep. He should sleep while he could.

There would be no time for sleep a few days from now.


Last edited by HeinKill; 01/19/18 07:53 AM.

So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, besides this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong sweep to death?

H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914.
#4400835 - 01/19/18 12:25 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign Updated: CH. 6 [Re: HeinKill]  
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Nixer  Offline
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Living with the Trees
The best installment yet HeinKill, IMHO.

Really getting good.


"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past."
Patrick Henry 1775

I personally believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and that deficit spending is sustainable forever. We really do need more Admirals in the Navy than ships and that millions of more poor immigrants will jump start the economy.

"There's a sucker born every minute."
Phineas Taylor Barnum

#4400876 - 01/19/18 07:54 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign Updated: CH. 6 [Re: Nixer]  
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HeinKill  Offline
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Originally Posted by Nixer
The best installment yet HeinKill, IMHO.

Really getting good.


Thanks rolling along now .... time to get the lead flying smile


So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, besides this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong sweep to death?

H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914.
#4401073 - 01/20/18 06:16 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign Updated: CH. 6 [Re: HeinKill]  
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rollnloop.  Offline
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France
Waiting for my next fix will be painful smile

#4401118 - 01/20/18 09:31 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign Updated: CH. 6 [Re: rollnloop.]  
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HeinKill Offline
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HeinKill  Offline
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Posts: 3,450
Cloud based
Originally Posted by rollnloop.
Waiting for my next fix will be painful smile


Ha, sorry! But thx for following along. Writing and proofing as fast as I can...


So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, besides this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong sweep to death?

H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914.
#4401220 - 01/21/18 04:12 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 21 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,450
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HeinKill  Offline
Senior Member

Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,450
Cloud based
THIS IS YOUR WAKEUP CALL

[Linked Image]

On the deck of a carrier, everyone knew their place, and aircraft were launched amid the roar of jet engines in an elaborate dance of colored shirts, hand-arm gestures and precision movement. Under the Rock, they relied on tightly choreographed commands over their headsets.

Rodriguez stood in the trailer, looking down on the flight deck at her crew crouched around the F-47. “Flaps, slats, panels, pins!” she intoned.

The reply from the deck came immediately, “Green.”

“Man out.” Referring to the hook up petty officer who attached the drone launch bar to the catapult shuttle.

“Man out aye.”

“Thumbs up.” A last visual check to be sure there were no leaks of fuel or hydraulic fluid. Her shooter turned, held his hand in the air, thumb up.

“ELAMS to 520 psi.”

“520 aye.”

“Cat scan.” Asking her shooter to make a last visual check of the catapult. No foreign objects, foreign object damage or people where they shouldn’t be.

The cavern filled now with the roar of the Fantom’s high-bypass engine.

“Cat clear!”

“Pilot, go burner.”

“Lighting burner, aye,” Bunny replied, spooling up the Scimitar engine and lighting the afterburner.

“Launch launch launch.”

Rodriguez watched with satisfaction as the big aircraft shot along the deck and down the rails, flung through the chute like a rock from a slingshot. She had started her career as a shooter on huge, roaring steam powered catapults, crouched on the flat top, ducking under the wings of aircraft blasting along the deck. EMALS had had a troubled birth, and had nearly been scrapped. But it was one thing to fire a steam catapult on an open deck in a windswept sea. In the confines of the cave under Little Diomede, it would never have worked. They would have had to find a way to capture the steam or vent it out over the sea without it being visible for miles in the Arctic air. The hugely powerfully magnetos driving the newer catapults didn’t need a steam compressor, but they did suck a ton of power. On a US carrier that power came from the ship’s own nuclear power plant, and nothing less was capable of pushing out the wattage needed. Which was why they had a repurposed Ohio class submarine reactor buried deep under the Pond. Little Diomede was built on kludges.

Rodriguez bit her lip and watched as the flight systems aboard the Fantom stabilized it and it transitioned from kinetic to onboard hydrogen fuel power from its Scimitar engine. This was the moment most prone to disaster. The drones had to kick in full afterburner at the moment of launch or they would simply drop into the sea outside the chute.

Bunny had her hand on the stick and her eye on her simulated cockpit flight screen, but Rodriguez knew for all her bravado about flying her drone out of the chute, she was pretty much a passenger at this point. The drone’s onboard AI could react to its environment and adjust its flight envelope a hundred times faster than Bunny and her redundant flight stick could. By the time she could twitch her stick a millimeter, the drone had already decided it had enough power for a successful launch, and aimed itself at the open air above Little Diomede. But AI could glitch too which was why she had her hand on the stick in case she needed to take back manual control while it was still in range of their undersea transmission array.

Bunny was controlling her Fantom through a VR helmet, with Rodriguez relegated to watching it in 2D on a bank of screens that simulated cockpit views, tactical overviews and heads-up display (HUD) instrument readouts. Flicking her eyes to the forward view screen, Rodriguez saw the hulks of the old fishing fleet flash past underneath the drone and then it began to climb into the night sky. Before she had even exhaled the breath she didn’t realize she was holding, the roar of the drone had died away and the cavern was suddenly empty, and quiet. Until a huge cheer went up from the personnel ringing the dock.

Rodriguez couldn’t help but smile, and heard the relief in Bunny’s voice as she calmly announced, “Fantom 4 successful egress. AI has control. Turning to 150, altitude 100.” She leaned back from her stick, letting it go and flexing her fingers. She pulled up her VR visor, turned to Rodriguez briefly, flashing her a quick thumbs up, before turning and pulling the visor back down.

“EMALS return to launch readiness. Recovery team to standby,” Rodriguez said into her comms, and watched with satisfaction as the members of the red-shirted crash and salvage crew returned to their stations and changed their shirts to green in anticipation of recovering the aircraft after its mission.

The only other person in the trailer was the CO, Halifax. He patted her shoulder. “Nice launch Boss. Almost be a shame when it becomes routine.”

“If shooting 80 million dollars’ worth of warplane through a hole the size of a barn door underneath a billion tons of rock ever becomes routine sir, you can hand me my retirement slip.”

“Now you’ve got that cat working again, you’ll be firing three next time, then six, then twelve Lieutenant Commander. And you’ll be doing it at a pace you never thought possible. Your crews ready for that?”

She watched as Lieutenant Severin, her catapult officer, went around high fiving everyone on the flight deck. “They were born for it sir,” Rodriguez said, sounding as confident as she felt.

The trailer was quiet a moment, as they watched Bunny at work, pulling data from the drone and tweaking its flight path as it settled in for its flight down the Alaska coast, skimming the sea at not much more than wave top height. It would be an hour before it went feet dry over Alaska’s southern coast near Anchorage. Rodriguez had plenty to do outside, giving props to her people for a picture perfect launch.

“Permission to hit the flight deck sir?” she asked Halifax.

“Granted. Lieutenant Commander, before you go?” Halifax asked. “A question?”

“Sir?”

“How you and your pilot run this mission is entirely your call, but the coast facing Russia is probably the most watched piece of sky outside of Atlanta International Airport. I know the Fantom is 5th generation stealth, but what radar can’t see, thermal and magnetic imaging satellites can. No disrespect to Lieutenant O’Hare, but I’d like to know you have a plan so that Air Force won’t be laughing their a**es off at us for the next five years.”

Bunny was listening and lifted up her visor to give Rodriguez a wink, then went back to work.

“Well sir, firstly, you have to remember Air Force has been staring at that piece of sky for seventy years, without seeing anything but the occasional lone flight of Russian bombers acting like they accidentally got lost. Stare at nothing long enough, you start seeing nothing.” She held up two fingers, “Plus, I checked and it’s two years since the Pentagon put Eielson through an unannounced exercise like this. Whoever is on duty at this time of night is sitting over there right now, sucking back lukewarm coffee and probably sneak-watching HBO on a tablet. They have no idea what kind of sh*tstorm is about to hit them. Plus, Lieutenant O’Hare there has a cunning plan for not getting my very expensive warplane accidentally shot down. Tell the Commander, O’Hare.”

O’Hare turned around and flipped up her visor. She was busting to tell it, but Halifax tried to prick her balloon, “Let me guess. You’re going to circle south and blast up some river valley or mountain range at Mach 1.5 and treetop height, then pop up within cruise missile launch range, get a GPS lock on the target and call it mission accomplished before you high-tail it south again on afterburner.”

Bunny grinned, “It’s called the Tanana River Valley sir, and maybe that’s the way you’d do it. That’s the way most folks would do it and the radar operators at Eielson would have wargamed that a hundred times. So yeah, I’m going to come at Eielson from the south … or south-south west actually. On the commercial flight path that goes between Anchorage and Fairbanks. And I’m going to be flying at ten thousand feet, with my landing lights on, wheels and flaps down, at a stately 200 miles an hour. Every long and short range radar and every satellite in the northern hemisphere should be able to see me.”

Halifax looked at Bunny like she had completely lost her marbles, and then at Rodriguez, who couldn’t hide how much she was loving it. And he could see clearly neither of them was going to tell him any more right now.

“With your permission sir,” Rodriguez said to Halifax. “I have work to do.”

“Permission granted Boss,” Halifax said, his frown turning to a slight smile.

*
*

Airman E4 Dale Racine first saw the blip on his screen and heard the chime of the audio alarm as the UI aircraft came into the air traffic control zone for Fairbanks, 120 miles south of Eielson airbase. His eyes flicked to his screen as his system analyzed the flight profile of the unidentified object and compared it to civil and military flight plans. By its size, speed and altitude the system identified it as a probable light passenger aircraft but it didn’t match any logged civilian flight plan. Plus it was a heading that would bring it close to Eielson. Had he missed it earlier? He quickly checked the data history for that sector, but it came up empty. Air traffic control at Anchorage should have called it in then handed it off, but there was no record of them having pinged it. He sighed.

“Sir, I have an unidentified aircraft 100 miles out approaching from 185 degrees, altitude ten thousand, speed 226 miles an hour,” Racine called out to the officer of the watch, Staff Sergeant Elmore Bruning. Bruning and the other Airman in the tower at Eielson were busy planning how they were going to land both a C130 and a flight of UCAV-modded F-22s twenty minutes from now with only one functioning runway and one man short up in the tower because Airman E3 Scarlatti had reported sick again the lazy b*stard.

“Who do you have on station?” Bruning asked.

Racine checked his screen, looking for patrolling fighters. “Filial 3 and Filial 4, about twenty minutes from an intercept. Sooner if they light their a**es.”

Bruning looked up from his work, “No rush son, sounds like a civilian flight, probably hunters or trappers that didn’t file a plan.”

Another chime sounded in his ears and Racine looked down at his screen. The unidentified aircraft was descending now, moving through nine thousand nine to nine thousand eight. “It seems to be descending slowly now sir, moving through nine eight zero to nine seven.”

Bruning was tempted to give the guy an earful, but it was only his second week and he needed him sharp and motivated in about an hour when that C130 was coming in. He put on a patient tone, “Do the math Airman. On that heading, at that rate of descent, where might it be landing?”

Racine frowned. It was still a hundred miles out, so it could be making for FAI, the Fairbanks civilian airfield. Racine zoomed his screen out and started looking for commercial airfields on the bearing of the UI aircraft. FAI was the logical destination for sure, but it was too far to the north-east. So he called up national park cabins that had dirt airstrips alongside them. Bam. He put his finger on the screen. “I got the Harding Birch River Cabin strip right about where that glide slope would bottom out Sir,” Racine announced.

“Poachers,” Bruning spat. Bruning was a hunter too, but he was one of the dumb ones who paid his license. “Cheeky b*stards, think they can just sneak in at dawn, bag a moose or bear, get out again at dusk and no one will know. Make me sick.” A thought suddenly crossed his mind. “Those fighters doing anything critical?”

Racine called up the OPORD for Filial 3 and 4. “Night flight instrument checks Sir,” he said.

“Good, let’s give them something to do. Tell them there is an unauthorized civilian flight approaching Eielson and give them an intercept. Once they get eyeballs on it, I want them to scare the sh*t out of whoever is in that plane.”

“Sir?”

“Tell them to turn it around Racine,” Bruning explained. “Back to wherever it came from. With prejudice.”

*
*

[Linked Image]

Rodriguez checked her watch. It was go time. There wasn’t anything more she could do to get her people ready to recover the drone when it splashed down, so she walked over to the trailer and opened the door, stepping into a tight atmosphere of sweat and adrenaline. Listening, she soon heard why.

O’Hare wasn’t the one sweating, even though she was flying both as pilot and systems operator. Flying via satellite input created a control input lag of up to a second, which meant leaving most of the actual flying to the drone AI once it was out of ‘line of sight’, but Bunny still had a half dozen screens to watch as they fed her tracking and targeting data and she had to keep a hundred combat software routines at her fingertips ready to feed down the line. It troubled her not at all. She had bandwidth she hadn’t even tapped yet.

“Being painted by long distance ground based radar again sir,” Bunny said.

“Those fighters still closing?” Halifax asked.

“Yes sir. Can’t be precise with passive array yet sir but I’d say 110 to 120 miles out. Still only at cruising speed, they’re not in any hurry. They’ll be in weapons range in ... ten minutes.”

“Damn,” Halifax said.

Rodriguez smiled. Halifax was worried he was about to get 80 million dollars’ worth of drone shot out of the sky but to Rodriguez it sounded like Bunny’s mission was going exactly to plan.

“Light your IFF as soon as those F-35s get into weapons range,” Halifax told Bunny, referring to the Identify Friend or Foe system that told US and NATO aircraft and ground defense systems they were looking at an ally, not an enemy.

“Then we lose, Eielson wins sir,” O’Hare said. “With respect, I got this.”

Halifax ignored her. He was leaning over O’Hare’s shoulder, looking intently at a 2D screen, “One minute ten to HSSW missile launch,” he said.

“Yes sir,” O’Hare replied.

“Those F-35s are two minutes from weapons range,” Halifax said.

“Said I got it sir,” O’Hare said calmly.

“The window is closing, Lieutenant,” Halifax said through gritted teeth. “Pull up your wheels, light your tail and start squawking, this mission is bust.”

“Still seeing daylight Sir,” Bunny said, not at all phased by having a senior officer riding shotgun on her. “I’m entering max range. It will be so much more convincing inside the 90 percent certainty zone.”

“Best leave the pilot to do her work sir,” Rodriguez interjected gently.

Rodriguez could see Halifax wanted to say more, but he bit his lip and turned to Rodriguez, looking worried. “I really wanted this scalp Air Boss.”

Rodriguez nodded Bunny's way, “Fat lady hasn’t sung yet sir.”

Right on cue, Bunny started a running commentary. “GPS and inertial targeting locked. Twenty seconds to HSSW release,” Bunny’s fingers danced across her keyboard like a pianist playing an arpeggio as she cued up the simulated High Speed Strike Weapon. “CUDA Half-RAAMs in passive mode, also locked on targets. Ten seconds.” She moved her hands from her keyboard to her stick and throttle. “Get ready on the comms sir,” she said over her shoulder to Halifax.

Rodriguez noticed for the first time that Halifax had a hand-held comms unit in his hand and he held it up to his mouth. She wouldn’t have been surprised to see it shaking a little, with the amount of tension there was in the room.

Three-two-one … HSSW away,” Bunny said coolly, punching some keys. “Initiating egress. Wheels and flaps up, going to Mach speed.” The screen in front of her, her simulated cockpit, was completely dark, no horizon, not even a star showing to help her orient herself. But the ghostly green circle of her heads-up instruments spun giddily as she ordered the drone to come around and pointed it at the incoming fighters.

“Light them up Lieutenant,” Rodriguez ordered, referring to the two F-35s on an intercept course for what they probably still thought was a civilian light plane.

“Yes ma’am, lighting up active targeting radar. I have a lock on two targets. I have tone. Permission to fire?”

“Kill them dead Bunny,” Rodriguez said grimly.

“Fox one through four … CUDAs away. Bugging out,” O’Hare said. “Turning on IFF. IFF squawking.” On the tactical screens they watched the simulated missiles track and then wink out as they reached their silicon designated targets and kill probabilities were calculated. Bunny couldn’t keep the satisfaction out of her voice as numbers flashed on the screen. “Ground target kill confirmed, air target kills confirmed. All yours sir.” Bunny said to Halifax.

Rodriguez watched Bunny’s screen spin again as she rolled her drone on its back and bullied it down to treetop height at a speed sure to rip the crowns off the trees it was blasting over.

Halifax took a big breath, “Eielson airfield, this is US Navy Commander Justin Halifax of Navy facility NCTAMS-A4. You have just been put through a Pentagon authorized exercise. My F-47 Fantom strike fighter just successfully fired a nuclear armed hypersonic missile at your control tower. You are dead. Everyone within a twenty mile radius of your base is dead. The two pilots wandering through the sky toward an intercept with my Fantom, wondering what the hell just happened, are also dead. I’m terribly sorry Eielson. I have a hard time imagining what s-hole they might post you to that’s worse than Eielson Air Force base, so let’s agree I just did you a favor. Please acknowledge.”

“This is Eielson tower. Message received. Screw you Navy.”

“Confirmed Eielson, my respects to your commanding officer. Rest in Peace. Halifax out.” He grinned and patted Bunny on her shoulder. “Nice job officers. I’m going topside. The fun is just starting.”

*
*

Airman Racine, like everyone around him, was staring dumbfounded at the grey dawn sky as if it had answers for him.

He was still trying to process what had happened. It had seemed like everything had happened at once, so trying to remember it was like trying to recreate a crime scene.

First, the screaming warning tone coming out of his command console. He had taken a second to realize what it was, before he half stood and turned to Bruning with a frown. “Missile inbound?” He looked back at his screen. “Simulation, Sir!?”

“Oh sh*t,” Bruning said, going pale. His tablet fell from his fingers.

“Attack Radar!” the voice of the flight leader of the F-35 patrol screamed over the tower audio system. “Eielson we are being actively tracked by radar. Missiles inbound! Filial 4, deploy countermeasures! Break low!”

Racine bent to his screen, looking for the missile tracks on his monitor. There! “Simulated Sir!” he yelled. “It’s all a simulation!”

Bruning put his hand to his forehead and reached for the comms button at his throat.

On the screen in front of him, nothing made sense to Airman Racine. He watched as the blip designating the civilian light aircraft suddenly changed color and flashed a US Navy IFF code, accelerated to an incredible speed and then… disappeared.

“Filial leader, stand down, repeat stand down, you are seeing simulated launches,” Bruning said. “I repeat, this is Eielson Tower, you have been subjected to a simulated attack.”

“Sir?” Racine asked, looking from Bruning to the other Airman at his console and not seeing any answers. He heard heavy breathing over the tower audio from the fighter pilots as they regained control of their aircraft and their composure. “That civilian flight, it was a Navy…” Racine tried to explain.

“Eielson, you better explain,” came the tight voice of the F-35 flight leader.

Bruning almost spat the words, “Eielson Tower to Filial Leader; an unknown Navy aircraft just simulated firing an air-to-ground missile at us, and then attacked you with air-to-air missiles. Our systems show all launches were executed in simulation mode. That is all I know at this point Captain.”

There was a moment of silence then the voice of the F-35 flight leader came through again, “Give me a vector for an intercept Eielson,” he demanded. “We owe this pr*ck some payback.”

Bruning clicked his fingers at Racine but he just shrugged. “I have nothing sir,” he said. He looked back at his monitor to be sure, but the ghost aircraft was gone. “It launched, flashed a Navy IFF code, went Mach 1 and then disappeared.”

“Eielson tower to Filial leader, no business for you sir,” Bruning said, sitting down at his keyboard and screen. “The attacking aircraft has gone dark. Got nothing on radar. I’m pulling satellite infrared but that will take time.”

They never heard the fighter pilot’s acerbic response because right then a voice came over the encrypted interservice channel.

“Eielson airfield, this is US Navy Commander Justin Halifax…”

*
*

In their trailer, Rodriguez watched as Bunny used terrain-following radar to pick her way out of the target area and head for the coast. It would soon be light enough for optical satellites to pick her up and track her using high speed motion detection algorithms but she no longer cared. The main reason she was trying to stay low and stealthy was to make sure she didn’t get two extremely pi**ed off Air Force F-35s on her tail. She had nothing on her passive sensors, but she wasn’t taking any chances. She had a suspicion those Air Force jet jockeys could be so mad they would even consider putting a missile up the tailpipe of her drone and claim fog of war later.

Once her kite went ‘feet wet’ south of Anchorage she turned it back up the coast toward Little Diomede and let the AI take full control. She leaned back, pulled up her VR visor and blew air out of her cheeks.

“You are crazy O’Hare, you know that?” Rodriguez said, letting a little admiration leak into her voice.

“Crazy like a shark, ma’am,” O’Hare grinned.

“If the Russians don’t find this base and wipe it out, then the damn Air Force will, you just made sure of that.”

“They can try ma’am,” Bunny said. “But by then you’ll have thirty Fantoms online for me, right?”

Her adrenaline fueled smile was infectious and Rodriguez let her enjoy it. “We’ll do our best to keep up, pilot.”

Bunny reached her arms above her head and cracked her fingers, “Thankyou ma’am. But that was the easy part. I still have to fly that beast through a hole in a cliff the size of a carpark entrance and land it in a Pond smaller than the lake in Central Park. Aint no A.I. alive will fly itself straight at a hole in a wall.”

“My newly won admiration will be sorely tried if you break one of my Fantoms,” Rodriguez warned.

“Define ‘break’ for me Boss,” Bunny quipped.

*
*

The recovery was almost as nerve wracking for Rodriguez as the attack had been for Halifax. O’Hare had to use the undersea array to assume manual control of the drone as it made its final approach toward the island. For the last mile the autopilot voice kept intoning, Terrain warning, pull up! Terrain warning, pull up!

“Can’t you shut that off?” Rodriguez asked her.

“You stop hearing it after the first hundred times,” Bunny replied. The visor in front of her eyes had her full focus. Through the nose camera on the drone and the picture it was throwing up on Rodriguez’s 2D tactical screen, the cliff face looked huge, the cave entrance impossibly small.

The engineers had looked at various ways to try to hide the water level cave entrance, but in the end, they decided that as it had been there for hundreds of years, it would arouse more suspicion if it suddenly disappeared. So they had made do with widening the diameter enough that it was two Fantom wingspans, or about 120 feet wide. They had blasted away about four feet of the floor at the mouth of the cave but they were worried about the integrity of the rock above if they went too hard, so the water at the cave entrance was too shallow to take the impact of a Fantom landing on skis.

So what Bunny had to do, what she’d spent all that simulator time practicing and had managed to do for real on only a couple of test flights before the EMALS was taken off line, was to glide the Fantom into the maw of the cave, float it over the rock ledge at the entrance just above a stall, and then drop it hard into the water so that it had almost as much downward velocity as forward, and hope it wouldn’t dig in a ski and go cartwheeling across the Pond to explode in a hydrogen fueled fireball. The drone automatically dropped a small drogue into the water on landing to stop it from yawing and provide extra drag, so if she did it right, the two hundred feet of water in the Pond should be more than enough to pull up in, and she had reverse thrusters if she needed to pull up fast, but they were just as likely to send the Fantom to the bottom if she hit them too hard. If all went well, all her arresting gear officer would have to do was fish out the drogue, get a sling under the drone and lift it off the pond with a crane to be recycled.

You couldn’t program an autopilot for landings like that because it violated too many safety parameters. Which made Bunny just perfect for the job.

As the cave maw loomed closer on Bunny’s simulated cockpit view, Rodriguez knew better than to disturb her again. Even if it did look like she was bringing the Fantom in a little…

“Low and slow dammit,” Bunny said to herself, her left hand pushing forward a little on the throttle. “Come on baby. Time to come home.” She hit a key combination. “Flaps to full. Skis down and locked.”

Rodriguez pulled her eyes away from the screens inside the trailer and fixed them on the grey-white half circle on the other side of the Pond through which the Fantom was about to appear.

It was after dawn now, and the outside light was getting brighter. Inside the cave, they had switched on the low intensity green LED lighting that was used for landing. Anything else caused the cameras on the drone to flare, and the pilot risked losing orientation as they adjusted for white balance. The low luminosity of the green LEDs meant that Bunny saw a brief circle of complete black, and then the green wall lighting of the Pond and the dock sprang into view ahead of her. If all went well.

“That’s it honey,” Bunny was purring to herself now, as though she was coaxing a racehorse into a starting gate. “Don’t be scared of the big ugly cliff. Come to momma.”

Then Rodriguez saw the silhouette of the Fantom framed in the circle of light two hundred feet away and before she could react it was thumping down onto the water, hydraulic cushioned skids jumping as they soaked up the energy of the landing. Bunny popped her air brakes, tapped a key to give the drone just a touch of reverse thrust, and it dipped its nose alarmingly, but not enough that it risked what Bunny called ‘a face plant’.

From the back of the drone, the drogue parachute exploded, acting like the sea anchor on a yacht in a heavy sea and pulling it up so sharply it slowed it to a stop with fifty feet of Pond to spare. Bunny cut the engine, threw up her visor and leaned back in her chair, hands on her head, looking at the Fantom through the trailer windows like she couldn’t actually believe she had really landed it.

As she watched her green shirted crew get the recovery crane and sling rolling to lift the drone off the water and into a recycling bay, Rodriguez could see that every single landing on this base was going to be a balance of art and terror.

“Someone needs to buy me a damn beer,” Bunny said, turning around. “If I do say so myself, ma’am.”

Rodriguez smiled, “How about breakfast, Lieutenant? Once we’ve got that Fantom squared away.”

“You have a deal, Lieutenant Commander,” Bunny said, standing and stretching her compact frame. “Got to stay sober anyway. So I can pull the logs and write up the mission report, doing justice to how totally awesome I was.”

*
*

(C) 2018 Fred 'Heinkill' Williams. To Be Continued.

Last edited by HeinKill; 01/21/18 04:37 PM.

So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, besides this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong sweep to death?

H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914.
#4401236 - 01/21/18 06:15 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 18 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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Scaliwag and Survivor
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Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 14,041
Living with the Trees
I'm awake...I am awake

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"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past."
Patrick Henry 1775

I personally believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and that deficit spending is sustainable forever. We really do need more Admirals in the Navy than ships and that millions of more poor immigrants will jump start the economy.

"There's a sucker born every minute."
Phineas Taylor Barnum

#4401340 - Yesterday at 08:24 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 21 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,450
Cloud based
A RUN IN THE SNOW

[Linked Image]

While Bunny was belly flopping her Fantom onto the Pond, Bondarev was freezing his butt off in the melting snow of a Khabarovsk summer. He’d asked for a few minutes of General Lukin’s time and had been told he could meet with him at 0630 when the General was taking his morning run.

Fifty-eight years old and he was still taking a morning run in the subarctic temperatures of Khabarovsk? Bondarev sincerely hoped he would be dead before he had to even think about keeping up that kind of discipline himself.

He waited outside the General’s quarters in his running gear, hopping from one leg to the other to keep warm. He knew it was dumb at these temperatures to blow warm air into his mittens, because it would condense, turn to water and freeze his fingers. Same for the Balaklava around his face - blowing warm air into the mouth and neck would be as dumb as peeing in his pants to keep warm. There was nothing for it but to keep moving, but he knew Lukin was the type who thought five minutes early was already late, so he wasn’t too worried he’d be kept waiting.

Sure enough, at 0625 he saw the General come thumping down the stairs, fling open the doors from his quarters and take a deep breath. “Bondarev,” was all he said before nodding and pointing up the single road out of the base and then padding off down the road. Once he might have been a high jumper or a hurdler, but Lukin was carrying a few pounds now, thank God. He pounded down the road like a heavyweight boxer and Bondarev jogged by his side, wondering who should speak first. It was a little awkward, because quality time with the most senior officer in the 3rd Command of Air Force and Air Defense was not something he got that often, and spending that time running through the snow in the dark was something he’d never had to do before.

Luckily Lukin broke the silence, “That shifty bugger Arsharvin has brought you into the circle then?”

“Sir?” Bondarev asked, not wanting to throw his friend under the bus.

Lukin was the annoying type who could apparently talk and run without panting. The only sign he was exerting himself was that he timed his words with his inhalations.

“You don’t have to cover for him,” Lukin said. “I know you two served together in Syria. You asked my staff for an urgent meeting with me and I can’t believe it’s because you misunderstood your orders from yesterday. It’s a pretty simple CAP cover role, no matter the context. You take your machines to Saint Lawrence, scare away anyone who gets in the way, and make sure by the end of two days our troops are boiling tea and warming MREs on the ground below you without any American bombs or missiles upsetting their appetites.”

“Yes sir,” Bondarev agreed. “The Saint Lawrence objective is clear. But I have a suspicion that this is just our first move in a larger maneuver.”

“Suspicion, Colonel?”

Unfounded suspicion, Sir,” Bondarev said carefully. “But if I’m right, I’d like permission to bring the 6983rd up to full readiness. It’s not the weapons platforms Sir, they are already on trains, moving to Lavrentiya. I’m short of pilots and systems operators.”

They had left the base now, and were headed up a hill to a tree lined horizon, dark on dark. As though to test him, Lukin perversely picked up pace when they began the climb. Bondarev matched his pace, but was glad to see the older man at least begin to breathe more heavily.

“I can’t confirm your ‘suspicions’ Colonel,” he said. “But I am concerned to hear the 6983rd is not at full readiness already. It is intended to be a front-line unit. No one has told me anything about pilot or systems officer shortages.”

Bondarev knew that was not true. He had been warning of the personnel shortages monthly in his reports to the General Staff for nearly 18 months and knew these were read personally by Lukin. He had been told that Russian Aerospace Command was prioritizing combat operations in the Middle East and Africa and that the Eastern Military District was too far down the list for anyone to listen to him. He had accepted that, but hadn’t stopped flagging the shortages in his monthly reports, or in fact, at any opportunity. He had personally had a conversation with Lukin about it six months earlier.

“The Comrade General is not expected to be across such details,” Bondarev panted. “But it is the case that I am currently 20 aircrew short of being able to field my full regiment of 48 Okhotniks.”

He half expected criticism from Lukin for Bondarev not keeping him informed, or at least something about the incompetence of his staff. Instead, he was silent. They jogged side by side, Lukin apparently in thought, Bondarev in stasis, until they crested the hill and began the curving downhill part of the run that would take them through a small village and then back toward the base.

“Twenty crew you say,” Lukin said finally.

“Yes sir. For full operational capability I would require 24 to allow for … rotations.”

Bondarev had hoped that Lukin would ease off his pace as they jogged through the darkened, quiet town. Only one or two houses were lit, with early risers who no doubt had duties somewhere on the military base. A dog barked off in the distance, highlighting to Bondarev how still the early morning was. There was no traffic, neither foot nor wheeled. In his soul, Bondarev hoped to hear at least a cock crow, but he knew that was a thought dredged up from a semi-rural childhood and not likely here in the middle of the icy wind-blasted desolation of Khabarovsk.

“You are not to commit the 6983rd to the operation over Saint Lawrence,” Lukin said finally, as the lights of the base appeared over a rise. “I expect a limited reaction from the Americans. They are weak and indecisive but if the 4th and 5th Air Regiments suffer losses, you will bear them, Colonel.”

“Yes sir.”

If Bondarev had hoped for Lukin to share any of the grand plan with him, he was disappointed. They ran in silence for the rest of the distance back to the base, threading their way through the main gates, around a dead circle of hedge rustling in the early morning Arctic wind and then back to the front door of the General’s quarters.

Bondarev expected a curt dismissal, but was a little surprised as Lukin stopped on his steps, stretched out a leg, and bent over it, warming down. “I am a fighting pilot like you Bondarev,” he said. He was looking at his foot, grabbing the toe as he pulled on his hamstrings.

“Yes sir,” Bondarev said.

“Did you know I am still current on the Yak-130?” he asked pulling in his right leg and stretching out his left, still not looking at Bondarev directly.

[Linked Image]

Bondarev smiled, of course he knew. The whole of the 3rd Air and Air Defense Forces Command knew that Lukin had his own Ferrari red Yak-130, a two seater light ground attack fighter and trainer that had hard points for weapons and drop tanks. He flew himself from base to base for inspections, to observe exercises and join staff meetings.

“Yes sir,” he replied simply.

“You do your job,” Lukin said. “Keep those skies clear. And I’ll look forward to flying my Yak into that American field at Savoonga. You join me there, we will toast a job well done. Deal?” The General held out his hand, looking directly into Bondarev’s eyes for the first time.

Bondarev tool his hand, “A deal General.”

The General held his hand a moment longer than necessary. The gesture had a feeling of finality about it that unsettled Bondarev. It was as though they were saying goodbye. But Lukin dropped his hand and smiled, “I will see about that personnel shortage, Colonel,” Lukin said. “The fighting in Syria is more or less over now, from what I hear.” He patted Bondarev on the shoulder and pulled open the door to his quarters and Bondarev watched as he bounded upstairs for a shower.

I am already dead, Bondarev was thinking. He knows it, but he can’t say it.

*
*

“You don’t know your history,” Arsharvin was telling him. It didn’t quite come out that way though. It was more like, “Youdonknowyourhistry.”

Bondarev was aware of, and he spat upon, the clichéd Western images of Russians as big drinkers. He came from a family of teetotalers, in which he was the first in many generations who had ever taken a drink and recent events aside, it was rare he took two. His grandfather had been head of the entire Russian Air Force and he had never seen him touch a drop, even when he had turned up at a family dinner, pale faced and quiet, clearly shocked over something that had happened that day, or some news he had received. Yevgeny’s mother had plagued her father to tell her what had happened, but he had told her not to worry, it was just a military matter, not something he could share with her. Bondarev remembered once when his 13 year old self had watched the grey haired, box jawed older man sitting at the table, staring into his cold coffee for nearly an hour without moving. A week later they heard an entire Russian airfield and all its personnel had been overrun by Turkish forces after the base was obliterated with American-made ‘city-killer’ conventional weapons. The Turks, who had bought Russian made air defense systems during a period of detente in the early 2010s, had used their experience with the Russian tech to find a way to hack the systems to make them blind; an exploit that resulted in the deaths of several hundred Russian personnel and Syrian civilians.

That was the first, maybe the only time, Bondarev had seen his mother and father take a drink.

They had seen the shocked look on their son’s face and his father had pulled him over to the table as they sat there. “There will be war now, Yevgeny,” his father had said. “Not like you have seen before. I will be recalled, and you will …” he had looked at his wife. “You will do your duty too.”
¨
His father had been right. After several years of providing support and ‘advice’ to the Syrian regime, Russia had declared war on Turkey. Attacking that country from the south in Syria, from the Black Sea, and from airfields in the Caucasus, Russia had one goal. To show the West that it was once again a military power to be reckoned with, to show its allies or those in its shadow that they would need to choose sides for the second part of the 21st Century, as divided loyalties were no longer an option. And, Bondarev realized now, to test the resolve of the United States when it came to meeting its many treaty obligations.

Russia had achieved all of those objectives and more. Turkey alone was never going to be a match for the Russian Navy, Air Force or regular troops. And Turkey was very quickly left alone to deal with Russia. After years of antagonizing its European neighbors and throwing their overtures of friendship back in their faces, it had metaphorically burned all the bridges across the Bosporus leading to Europe. Similarly it had alienated its NATO partners through unbridled aggression against US Kurdish allies on its southern border, succeeding only in getting itself expelled from NATO. When an unfortunate clash between Turkish and Russian ground troops in Syria turned ugly, Turkey called for help from its traditional European and NATO allies and found itself in an echo chamber, facing Russian backed Syrian forces alone.

Bondarev had just earned his fighter wings. Russian overconfidence had seen early victories in Syria and Turkey met with some unfortunate reverses, and a war that planners had foreseen might take one year to 18 months before Turkey was forced to capitulate, was still raging two years later.

The fabled Blue Mosque in Istanbul was shown on Russian television as proof of both the discipline of Russian forces and the precision of its missiles and bombs, as it stood almost unscathed amongst the rubble of Istanbul.

[Linked Image]

Bondarev’s first combat mission had been in the skies over Istanbul, as he followed his flight in for a strike on anti-aircraft positions along the river dividing the city between Asia and Europe. They had blasted in at sea level, popped up over the first ruined bridge at Besiktas, and loosed their anti-radiation missiles at the targets that had been identified by high flying AWACS aircraft and drones. Yevgeny had not seen the missiles strike. His flight had headed for the nap of the earth again as soon as their missiles were away and were headed back to Sevastopol by the time they detonated. Russia had no need, nor appetite, for losing valuable pilots over enemy territory.

It was also the first time Bondarev had seen Okhotnik drones in action. As he had followed his flight leader away from the release point, he had seen a flight of nine Okhotniks, like small triangular darts, sweep in from his nine o’clock high to deal with the inadequate Turkish air force response to their attack. Turkish air defense satellites and radar had identified Bondarev’s flight as it had popped up, and two outdated but well-armed F-18 Superhornets had been directed to pursue Bondarev’s flight. He was picking up their search radars as they tried to get a lock on the fleeing Russian flight and watched as the Okhotniks flashed past his wing, loosed two AMRAAMs each at the Turkish jets and then immediately transitioned into an impossible full thrust vertical climb that would have turned a human pilot’s brain to mush. Within seconds the entire flight of Okhotniks was gone, surfing the stratosphere and no doubt looking for new targets even as their missiles swiped the Turkish Superhornets from the sky.

Bondarev saw the kills confirmed on one of the screens in his Su-57, and heard a grunt from his flight leader. “This isn’t war,” the man said. “It’s a video game and other side is still in the Nintendo age.”

“That silicon can sure as hell fly and shoot though sir,” Bondarev said.

“You looking for a transfer Bondarev? Your idea of war is sitting on your a** in a trailer in Georgia looking at a video screen, where the worst thing that can happen is you spill your coffee if things get hairy?”

Bondarev had instinctively run his eyes from controls to instruments, across his wing, the sky high and low around him and then back to his controls. A hill was rushing toward them and as one, the flight rose and then fell to avoid it. He checked the position of his wingman and felt the machine respond as he pulled back gently on his stick, felt the pressure of his seat against his back as he slid back into formation, the hill receding quickly behind him. “Not likely sir,” he’d said.

But with a fabled name like Bondarev he wasn’t going to be allowed to live out his days as a simple pilot. And despite their technological superiority, Russian losses were mounting as the second year dragged into a third, and then a fourth. A quick campagn had turned into a problematic, drawn out intervention and occupation facing an asymmetric enemy, with Turkish forces maintaining control of their vital oil reserves and a newly guilt-ridden sympathetic Europe coming in late with support; if not with troops, then at least with weapons. With two air and 15 ground kills against his name Bondarev had been given a Nesterov Air Medal and command of his own Su-57 squadron.

He wasn’t ready for command, but he had learned quickly. Arsharvin had been head of his combat intelligence unit, but to Bondarev, his greatest value wasn’t intelligence about the Turkish enemy. It was his network within the Russian air force, the Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily Rossii or VVS, which had meant there wasn’t a single political maneuver Bondarev wasn’t forewarned about. When Arsharvin had learned about a near insurrection about to erupt in 573rd Army Air Force Base Arsharvin had handed the names of the plotters to Bondarev, and he had taken them to Lukin personally, afraid of trusting the information to anyone else. When the recriminations died down, Lukin had demoted the commander of the 573rd, and put Bondarev in charge. It was an inglorious command, rotary winged transport aircraft mostly, but it was based in Khabarovsk with high visibility. He leveraged his time there to eventually achieve command of the 5th Air Regiment, an elite unit composed of the latest Su-57 and Mig-41 fighters. From there it was just a matter of not screwing up, and he was handed command of the 6983rd Air Base: nine regiments, 200 fighters or attack aircraft, 100 rotary winged attack and support aircraft.

After the heat and dust of Syria, the move to the 6983rd’s base in the Russian Far East had been welcome. Bondarev was no stranger to snow and ice. Loved, in fact, the biting cold of a cloudless night, salt tears in his eyes, lips numb. His mother, dead five years now, had taught him there was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

His father had been right about the war coming, but he hadn’t been there to see it end. He had died of an undiagnosed heart problem manning a radar station outside Tbilisi; but he had seen his son decorated and Bondarev remembered he had cried when he saw him wearing his medal. He had held his son by the shoulders and then tapped the medal. “Each one of these is forged with the tears of mothers who have lost their sons and daughters,” his father had said. “Remember that, every time you pin it on.”

“Hey, I’m talking to you,” Arsharvin said, punching his shoulder and bringing him back to the present. Bondarev had just told Arsharvin it was his professional military opinion that Operation LOSOS was going to be just like Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. A fantastic military victory that would guarantee their ultimate defeat.

“Saint Lawrence is not Pearl Harbor,” Arsharvin was insisting, “The US will react to our move on Saint Lawrence, yes. That is the intention - to create a provocation they simply cannot ignore. We will incur losses, inevitably. In fact, we are counting on it. In the face of continued US military aggression we will move on Alaska and declare our intention to secure the west of Alaska as neutral territory, a bulwark between a militant USA and a peaceful Russia. Traditional US lapdogs like Australia, South Korea and Japan may react, but our diplomats assure us NATO will not mobilize.”

“NATO will react when American cruise missiles start to fly,” Bondarev said. “I guarantee you that.”

Arsharvin took another glass, “It won’t come to that. This is a border dispute, nothing more. If we move with overwhelming conventional force, take Alaska quickly, the US will find itself in a hostage negotiation, not a war.”

“They might hesitate to use their nuclear weapons against targets on US soil, I agree,” Bondarev allowed. “But sub-launched tactical nukes aimed at our Far East airfields and ports would be my response. The battle for Alaska would be over before it started.”

“And how would we respond to an attack like that?” Arsharvin asked.

“Massively, and irrationally,” Bondarev sighed. “The sky would rain ICBMs. We would be looking at the end of all civilization, not just Russia.”

“Yes. Or no. Say the self-absorbed US President and the weak-kneed liberals in power in the US Congress hesitate. The US does not need Alaska. They have one third of the world’s freshwater in the Great Lakes region. Alaskan oil has become irrelevant since the renewable energy revolution. They will fight, yes, but not with nuclear weapons.”

“I’m not buying that, but what makes you think we can even win a conventional war?” Bondarev asked.

“Nothing, but what a righteous cause!” Arsharvin yelled, raising an arm in the air. “Let us toast to it! A fight against a worthy enemy, for the survival of Mother Russia!”
*
*
(c) 2018 Fred 'Heinkill' Williams. To Be Continued...



Last edited by HeinKill; Yesterday at 08:33 AM.

So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, besides this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong sweep to death?

H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914.
#4401377 - Yesterday at 04:36 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 21 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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jenrick Offline
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jenrick  Offline
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I'm assuming Canada might have something to say/do if the Soviets "annex" the little chunk of land called Alaska?

-Jenrick

#4401395 - Yesterday at 06:31 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 21 Jan [Re: jenrick]  
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HeinKill Offline
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HeinKill  Offline
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Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,450
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Originally Posted by jenrick
I'm assuming Canada might have something to say/do if the Soviets "annex" the little chunk of land called Alaska?

-Jenrick


Does a moose poop in the woods? wink

However not too sure they could do much about it. I remember when I lived in Toronto there was a light hearted spat between Canada and Denmark over a 'disputed' island in the Arctic

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/08/...denmark-hans-island-whisky-schnapps.html

The Globe and Mail did a similarly light hearted story on the armed forces of the two nations and decided that if it came to war, Denmark would win!


So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, besides this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong sweep to death?

H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914.
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