Note: This is one of the missions the Firebirds were sent on. Our Weapons Officer Kingfisher wrote it up, and here it is in all its glory. You gotta admit that he's got one hell of an imagination! :-)
It had been another chaotic week on board the Saratoga. A few days ago a Chig Regiment had been caught out in the open, trying to cross a vast expense of alien-like plant life similar to elephant grass on earth, a place not surprisingly called 'The Plain Of Reeds'. It was situated on a small moon of the planet Cerrus.
So, gunships and fighters were called from all over the place to the small moon. Firebirds from the Saratoga, Wild Furies from the Yorktown and even the 96th Recon Batalion from the JFK were called to handle the situation. Thus it had been a gruelling week of flying sorties after sorties, supporting infantry units down on the moon, standing Counter Mortar Standby 24 hours.
The attack from the Earth Forces squadron was quite violent. Many a time, Napalm was dropped on wounded Chigs mercilessly, and prisoners were executed where they were captured. It was being said that Earth Forces soldiers were getting tired of the war. Death was just a moment away. You never knew from where or how or when you're going to buy it.
Added to this was the failed peace conference on the Saratoga. Rumours had it that the Chigs had violated the temporary cease fire causing the death of 3 Earth Forces finest generals during the peace talks. A trap no doubt.
On this fine Sunday morning, the Firebirds were assigned for a bombing sortie. The transcripts of the briefing made by Commodore Ross are as follows;
"88th, intelligence has reported heavy enemy movements near iv Corps, the area of operation for the squadrons from the Saratoga. We believe that the Chigs are moving their heavy mortars and artillery down this trail..." Boss Ross points to a map on the HUD.
"... and there are also reports of Chig tanks around and near the area.We believe this buildup has something to do with a new base the Chig is fortifying near that particular area. The 101st Airborne Division has christened the area 'Heartbreak Hill' but we know it as Steel Tiger. Coordinats Kilo Tango 199356. The Paras have already lost 5 platoons trying to take that Hill. As far as military needs are concerned, that hill must fall. "
"Your main objective is to knock out those artillery implacements and destroy any Chig supply depot around the immediate area. We have already pulled the 101st back a few, so there is no chance of you hitting frendly troops. But bewarned. The target area is heavily defended, expect 99mm's, 150mm's, and 9.3mm Lidar-guided guns. There is a possibility that the 3rd Chig Airwing will be there to intercept you."
"You Firebirds will join the Wild Furies from the Yorktown on this particular mission. You will need all the help you can get. Raven, Garuda, Falcon, Sparhawk, and Eagle...you five will fly the bombs. For this, your hammers will be equipped with 500 and 100 pounders, MK56's and assorted CBU's. Use the CBU's on the heavily armored bunkers and the MK's for the tanks. I don't have to tell you what those 1000 pounders are for." "Kingfisher, Albatross, Sparrow, Peregrine and the rest of you, you will be their cover fighters. Protect the fighter-bombers with your life. Draw the AAA's off them and eliminate any Chig bandits foolish enough to come close. Kingfisher will be on lead. Are they any questions ?"
Kingfisher put up his hand.
"What about bail-out if we're in trouble?" asked the Lieutenant.
"Try and head east towards the 101st, that's where the rest will be. Anywhere else, you'll drop right down enemy held area. The Jolly Greens will only have 20 minutes to get you out. Any later than that, Chigs get their hands on you," answered the Commodore
"Any more questions?" added the Commodore
There were none.
"Watch out for those AAA's Firebirds. Call out those fighters when you see 'em Kingfisher. You're the best dogfighter we have here. Don't take any unecessary chances, you job is to protect the bombers, nothing more..I don't want any of you planning to be heroes. Try and come back in one piece..."
Kingfisher gripped his throttle tighter. He checked, for the umpteenth time, his Lidar for the ETA to target. His eyes darted frequently to his SA-43's HUD , searching for any unusual signs to signify enemy movements. There had been instances where Hammerheads squadrons were jumped by Chig fighters due to negligent flight leaders. Chig technology had the ability to jam Lidar and Kingfisher was extra cautious on this particular mission, as they were quite near to the Chig's homeplanet.
Kingfisher glanced to his left, and his view was filled by the sight of the rest of his Squadron. Raven flew lead. He coould see her undercarriage bristling with assorted bombs, courtesy of the ingenuity of Earth Forces enginneers.
Behind his CO, on her 5 and 7 o' clock, flew Garuda and Falcon. Directly behind them, Sparhawk and Eagle flew in similar fashion. They all carried the required armaments for this particular mission. Mavericks and Cluster Bomb Units, the smart bombs, as they were called, made up their ordinance. Their job was to deliver destruction unto the enemy.
Far left, the Weapons Officer flew with Peregrine as his wingman. On the other side of the 5-man bombers, Albatross and Sparrow flew. Under the command of Kingfisher, they were there as to provide cover fighters for the bombers.
"30 Mikes to target," Raven said. "I want status check, Spar?"
"Roger that, Sparhawk One standing by," replied Sparhawk.
"Garuda One standing by"
"Falcon One standing by"
"Eagle One standing by"
"Peregrine One standing by"
"Albatross One standing by"
"Sparrow One standing by"
"Kingfisher One standing by"
"Weapons are on hot. Bombers, make sure target coordinates are punched in. Remember, there are friendlies in the area," ordered the CO.
"'Birds, if any of you bombers gets harrased by Chig fighters, jettison bombs and tanks. Our Hammers are not responsive as it is, without the load you're carrying,"added Kingfisher. "Do not hesitate to engage the enemy if the rest of us are late in coming to your rescue."
"Listen to the man..Keep your eyes alert and heads screwed on tight. Fighters follow KF's lead and Bombers, you guys follow mine. KF, keep the fighter off our backs," Raven said.
"Piece of cake. Them Chiggy fighters will curse the day they were hatched," KF answered.
"No problem Boss, You hire, we fire," quipped Bat, the Albatross.
Raven grinned beneath her helmet. Bat was never one to follow Radio discipline.
A beeper sounded in their cockpits.
"We are approaching target area," the Comm officer said.
"Roger that Garry," Raven replied. "This is it people"
Falcon tensed in his cockpit. This was his first mission with the 88th. His left hand shivered slightly as he held his throttle. He glanced to his right, where Garuda was. The Commo officer gave him an assuring smile. He smiled back, the tension easing a little.
The moon loomed above them, larger than life. Dark clouds swirled in multilayered myriads before them. Black spots indicating electrical storms littered the atmosphere.
Suddenly, Bat's Lidar started screaming. She peered down and exclaimed, "Bandits, coming up at six marks at two tens,"
"I copy," replied Kingfisher. "Raven, keep on course, we'll handle these suckers.
They flew down to the moon's surface. Their Hammers shuddered under the gravitational pull, but they held on. Their eyes nervously searching for the enemy fighters.
"Bandits at three o' clock low," Peregrine shouted, nearly deafening everybody.
"Break! Break!" ordered KF.
The four cover fighter broke formation and executed a downward barrel roll. Kingfisher flew on lead. His eyes narrowed at the Squadron of enemy fighters before him. He glanced behind and made sure that the others were right behind him. They were.
"Stay with me guys, pick out one bogey and engage," cried KF
Sparrow grunted as the G-Force pushed her back in her seat. She righted her Hammer and saw 12 Chig fighters, at least, heading towards her. Somebody shouted Tally Ho, which sounded familiarly like Bat and the battle was joined.
"I have a lock!"
"Bogeys on yer 2, KF!"
"Damn! They're everywhere"
"Shoot! Bat, Shoot!"
"Heads up Sparrow, you have incoming!"
...A Chig fighter, shying away from Bat's fire, streaked into KF's sight. His Lidar sensed the target and emmited a low whistle. KF banked left and triggered a shot. His lasers passed below the fighter and made it panic. It pulled abruplty upwards, and KF who waiting for this, sent a missile towards it. The Chig tried to avoid the missile but too late, the fighter blew...
...The Chig doved down, but Bat rolled her fighter in a corkscrew and stayed on its tail. She fired twice. The first shot missed, but the second didn't. It hit the cockpit at point blank and fire consumed the fighter...
...Sparrow unleashed two missiles at oncoming Chig, it dodged both of them, Sparrow's missiles failing to have a lock. The Chig returned fire. Sparrow pulled hard to her left and the lasers shot passed her. Sparrow executed a double barrol role and turned 180 degrees abruptly. She was now facing the Chig. She spitted her lasers on full and the Chig died subsequently....
...Two Chigs rolled through their double-helix manouveur and Kingfisher shot through the center of the spiral. Rolling out, one of the fighters disengaged and the other one cut to Kingfisher's 3 o' clock. The latter Chig fired its lasers, splashing it against Kingfisher. Kingfisher avoided it but found the other Chig right behind him. Kingfisher looked behind. Lasers came tumbling after. He looped upwards and banked left, but the Chig fighter stayed with him.
"I can't shake him," Kingfisher cried. "Dammit Per, get him of my back"
For a moment, Kingfisher lost track of the other fighter. At that very moment, Per came in from his 12 0' clock and engaged the Chig tailing Kingfisher. That broke the incoming Chig's concentration.
"Dive to my six, Kingfisher," Per shouted as she fired her locked missile on the Chig.
Kingfisher pulled some G's and the pressure tightened his throat as he pushed his throttle downwards. He turned his heads and saw Per destroying the Chig. He suddenly remembered the remaining Chig and Kingfisher frantically looked around, searching for it. The Chig fighter dropped from his left and came in dangerously. Kingfisher released flares as the remaining Chig fired a missile. The flares screwed the missile's navigation system, detonating it prematurely.
Kingfisher did an 80 degrees turn and found the Chig rushing towards him. Kingfisher activated full right thrusters and his Hammer slid sideways, avoiding the lasers from the Chig. Kingfisher fired 3 shots with deadly accuracy and the fighter caught the blast head on.
Sparrow weaved from port to starboard. The 3 Chig fighters followed mercilessly behind as a rain of fire streamed fearfully near her. She applied afterburners and her Hammer responded. The Chigs kept coming.
"Somebody help me, I got 3 bogeys on my 6 o' clock,' Sparrow said, her voice tense.
"Hold on Row, I'm coming," Bat replied.
"Hurry up, I can't shake them" Sparrow said breathessly, the manouveurs she had made to lose her 3 bogeys was taking its toll. She applied right rudder just in time as a Chig missile missed her by inches.
Bat locked on the first Chig tailing Sparrpw. She bellied up and fired a missile towards it. The Lidar guided missile streaked towards its target. The Chig never knew what hit it.
Suddenly, "I'm hit!, I'm hit! Mayday.." cried Sparrow.
Smoke spewed out from where the Chig had hit her. Tiny red lights were blinking continously in her cockpit. She tried to pull on her throttle but it wouldn't budge. Smoke filled her cockpit.
"Get the hell out of the dodge! Eject goddammit!" Kingfisher screamed at her.
Sparrow's cockpit disengaged from her Hammer with a bang as she ejected. Fire trailed from the left engine, seconds later it exploded.
"Bat, cover her..make sure she's okay," Kingfisher said
Kingfisher pounced on the last two remaining Chigs. With the help from Peregrine, he pulled back on his throttle, rolled and aquired his target. He set up a head-to-head pass, then cut his throttle back. Bringing up his port stabilizers up, he let the fighter sideslip to the right, then he applied thrusters to have a lock on the Chig fighter. He fired four shots and the bolts tore through the Chig's left wing.
Peregrine rolled her ship onto its top, then hit right thrusters and spun upwards. She rolled back downwards and found herself on top of the remaining Chig. Her lasers pierced through the Chig fighter like hot knife through butter.
Bat hovered near Spar's ejected cockpit.
"Sparrow, you okay? asked Bat
"I'm a little cooked, but I'm okay," Sparrow
"Bat, you stay with her until her pickup arrives from the Saratoga. Per and I are gonna see to the rest of the squadron," Kingfisher said.
"Affirmative Kingfisher, good hunting," replied Bat.
As soon as the cover fighters peeled off formation to engage the enemy, Raven ordered the bombers to maintain their attack run. In the distance they could see Kingfisher and the rest in a furious dogfight.
"Can they hold out?," asked Eagle nervously. She could see the Chigs outnumbered them 2 to 1.
"You worry about them Flaks, let KF worry about them fighters," commanded Raven.
"ETA to target is 10 mikes," Sparhawk said. She then added "Those Flaks are heavy at the southernmost part of the Hill. I don't think we can get a clear visual on tne targets"
"We don't need a visual..your LIDAR will tell you what to shoot at," Raven said
The atmosphere of the moon thinned out. They only had clear visibility at 30000 feet. The nitrogen-filled landscape looked eerie and gloomy from their position this high up. Everywhere they looked, they saw an expense of rich vegetation, all alien and sinister looking.
Without warning, the sky suddenly exploded all around them. AAA shells exploded mere fractions away from their fighters. Huge piece of hot metal, smacked against their planes as the exploding shells kept bursting all around them.
"Obviously, we are getting close to the target, nice reception, " punned Sparhawk grimly.
Garuda's Hammer shuddered with the impact of the less than lethal shrapnels. So long as they didn't take a direct hit, their fighters would hold. She squinted into her LIDAR to check her position as the sight of the baseball sized fireballs whistled past her.
"Keep it tight Marines," Raven's voice came in through the radio. "Arm Ordinance!"
The master arm was switched on and a small buzzing sound was heard in all the fighter bombers signifying that the warheads of their bombs was triggered.
"Use single file attack run, I'm on lead, Spar's on second, just like the simulators back home," ordered Raven as a shell exploded ner her fighter.
"Sierra hotel... I can't see a damn thing," gasped Falcon. His LIDAR told him that the target was moments away but the air around them was thick with smoke, reducing their visibility to almost zero.
Suddenly, they came out of a cloud overhanging and levelled up. ETA to target was 2 mikes, but the AAA's hadn't lessened.
Raven checked her targeting computer. "I'm activating the target sensors the 101st so kindly placed down there."
Her LIDAR showed various targets, bunkers and arty implacements along with its coordinates. "Okay Marines, I'll take out those bunkers, Spar, you, Falcon and Eagle handle those Artys, and Garry, clean the mess up with your 500's and 1000's. Level up at 500 feet, any lower and you'll be part of the scenery."
"Roger that, Boss." Sparhawk acknowledged the order. Her targeting computer gave a beeping lock on target. Sparhawk banked left to where her targets lay. Eagle followed suit. A shell flew fearfully close. Many a time, her fighter had been rocked by Flaks, and large holes were beginning to appear from where she had taken hits.
The ground came rushing fast. She checked her LIDAR. Damn the lack of visibility! she cursed.
"Falc, when I drop my eggs, you vector 10 degrees to port and release yours, copy? Eagle you fly right up my rear," Sparhawk said.
"Roger that," Falcon replied.
Raven dove down, afterburners dimming so as to reduce speed. Her LIDAR gave a low moan and she knew she was over the target. With the skies erupting around her..Raven released her bombs. Two MK's spirraled towards the ground. Their radar sensed the enemy bunker which was fortified with reinforced alien alloy. Both the MK's pierced the outer layer of the bunker and tunneled a few metres in. A few seconds later, their warheads detonated, rocking the foundation. The bunker imploded inwards and the Chig commander died as a huge chunk of wall blew out and smashed into him.
Falcon saw the LIDAR-guided gun before his targeting computer gave the signal. He saw red balls the size of a fist heading towards him. His spontaneous reaction saved his life as he pulled hard on the rudder and bellied up. He pressed the firing button on the side of his throttle and 4 CBUs dropped from under him. The CBUs travelled downwards at about 80 mph and 10 metres from the ground, their heads opened up and released hundreds of tiny ball bearings, every each one of them fiery hot. The ball bearings rained down on the gunners and the deadly armament passed and burned right through Chig armour. The gunners screamed as they died.
Ahead of Falcon, Sparhawk did the same. Chig gunners tried to shoot the blurred silver javelin in the sky... But her attack came in swift and deadly, like her name-sake. CBUs tumbled from her belly and two Artillery implacements were destroyed.
Eagle cursed her obscured view and decided to leave things to chance. Avoiding a few exploding shells, she reversed thrusters so as to increase drag and fired her Mavericks. They sped through the Flak gunfire. 5 LIDAR-guided Chig guns were destroyed. Their gunners didn't even have time to utter an oath as the hydrogen-based warhead exploded, sweeping the whole area as far as 30 metres away with unholy fire.
Garuda who had dropped back, checked her LIDAR for the target requirements and barreled roll down. The Flak around her target had reduced considerably after the passes made by the first four Firebirds. Garry rolled to her left and as her target computer gave the low beeping moan, she released her 1000 pounder. The ground shook with the exposion, and debris travelled a few metres up into the sky. The tremendous pressure from the bomb punctured the eardrums of those who had not died directly from the prime explosion. They cowered and whimpered in terror, preparing to die inside their foxholes....
Garuda chanced a quick glance back. The land lay smouldering, bodies strewn all around. The dead mingled with the wounded. The pitiful cries were swallowed up by the minor explosions, the aftermath of the devastating fireworks the Firebirds had wreaked.
"Sierra Hotel!" she exclaimed. "We left some widows back there."
"I want BDA's," ordered Raven. "Eagle, drop low and get me some Recon photos."
"You got it," replied Eagle.
She reduced speed and banked left, breaking formation and levelling down to a lower height. She activated the small 35mm infra red camera situated beneath her Hammer and it started to take pictures for the Bomb Assessment Damages that was vital to Military Intelligence.
"It looks like hell down there," she piped up.
"SAM! SAM!" Sparhawk shouted a warning.
Almost instantly as the words were uttered, Eagle's Hammer lurched forward, smoke beginning to fill her cockpit. Small fires erupted on her console. Acrid fumes stung her eyes and choked her.
"Eagle's hit! Eagle's hit!' cried Raven. From her vantage point, she could see smoke trailing from Eagle's rear. Spar's warning had came in too late. The Chig SAM had streaked from below and blind-sided her. It had pierced her tail wing but failed to detonate at the moment of impact.
"I'm cranking it.." Eagle cried.
Her cockpit blew out and she was rocketed away from her crippled Hammer. As her Hammer was flying in atmospheric conditions, a parachute began to emerge from behind her cockpit.
"Falc, circle down and make sure she's all right. The rest of you, I want the area around her clear of any unfriendlies." Raven said.
Eagle's cockpit floated lazily down to earth, the green foliage giving a bright contrast to Eagle's white parachute. When her cockpit ejected, an emergency beeper had automatically been activated and thus all the Firebirds' Lidar blinked her position.
"Try and get in touch with the 101st. They're somewhere down there. If there are, I want them to get her," the CO ordered.
"That's affirmative," replied Falcon.
Faclon sped down, and circled Eagle's cockpit a few times. He could see Eagle giving him a thumbs up from inside her cockpit. He stayed with her until she disappeared into the foliage.
A few anxious moments later.....
"Foxtrot Zero One, this is Charlie Horse Six, we have your pilot. She's a little bruised up, but she'll be fine," the CO for the 101st Airborne spoke. "That was a mighty fine show you had for us, sorry to see it ended."
"Charlie Horse Six, this is Raven One. Appreciate you giving my zoomie a lift," replied Raven. "Set coordinates for the Saratoga"
One by one, the Firebirds formed the fingertip formation and flew home.
The end...?© Copyrighted 1997
Reported by Kingfisher
Back to the 88th Firebirds Fanfiction page