Your mission: destroy a suspicious merchant vessel en route from Karachi to North Korea.
WHEN WE LEFT OFF you were going over your equipment options and decided to take a heavy air-to-surface load for your MiG-23 ‘Flogger’ in order to ensure a kill on the freighter. Your wingmen in the modernised MiG-21 ‘Fishbeds’ chose overwhelmingly air-to-air weaponry- two Alamos and two Aphids for French, five Aphids for DeeDee.
After a brief taxi on the sand-blasted runway, you are airborne. You circle the small airstrip while your wingmen join you, then turn almost due east and head out over the Arabian Sea.
You cruise out at low altitude, keeping your radar sets passive to avoid attracting attention. Conveniently low altitude also keeps you safe from surface-to-air missiles, although it leaves you vulnerable to any anti-aircraft artillery you encounter. Still, there isn’t too much on your way out. You blow by a few fishing boats, and that’s it. Oil tankers heading for the Gulf are probably a bit further ahead, on the international shipping lanes.
Intelligence suggested that your target left Karachi late yesterday, but at the plodding rate of such a freighter and at the predicted course you should be able to intercept it without too much trouble.
You climb to a medium altitude. Wisps of cloud but the weather is mostly clear.
“Wait a second. I’m getting something,” DeeDee says. “Fuck. My RWR’s going off. We’re got company.”
“I’m getting hits too,” French says.
Before too long, you start getting a return too. Something big, slow, airborne, and headed your way. A commercial airliner, maybe, but why the powerful radar?
“Want me to go investigate?” DeeDee asks.
You continue climbing, your throttle opened right up, French about a thousand yards off your left wing. One eye on your altitude, another on your radar.
There! One signature on the surface, some distance to the south. “Are you getting this?”
“Yeah. Let’s move in and make sure,” French says.
No sooner had the words left his mouth than a second radar signature shows up next to it. You feel your pulse quicken. If this is your target, you’re going to have witnesses… or an escort.
DeeDee is pretty good at evading fire. If you’re sending anyone into a tight spot, he’s the one most likely to escape. He gives you a jaunty little wave from his cockpit and rolls away from you, bleeding off altitude as he races east to investigate. You deviate from your course to put more distance between your flight and that curious aircraft, and consider warming up the pair of Exocets nestled under your MiG-23.
“Got an ID on that vector from before,” DeeDee says after a few minutes. “Looks like an Indian coastal reconnaissance plane. IL38.”
A few more minutes passed in silence.
“Whoa. Fire control radar. Looks like I’m being tracked by something else,” DeeDee says nervously. It was starting to look like one of those ships was military. But which one, and whose military..?
“Target in sight. That’s it for sure. It’s… dammit… you guys are not going to believe this,” DeeDee groans.
“What’s its escort?” you ask.
“Guided missile frigate ‘Tippu Sultan’. Pakistani. It’s hailing me. I’m being warned to turn around immediately.”
You are caught between a Pakistani missile frigate and an Indian ELINT platform. DeeDee clears his throat, perhaps after silently uttering a prayer to Allah, and addresses the Pakistani warship. His Indian accent sounds like something he learned from Apu in Egyptian dubs of The Simpsons, and you cringe in your cockpit at the stupid accent.
“This is Jaguar Flight, employed by the Republic India under Article 26 of the Pskov Charter. Simply investigating maritime traffic. Changing course as requested.”
There is what seems like an interminable pause as he turns his MiG-21bis north and enters a slow climb.
At last, a terse reply from the frigate Tippu Sultan: “Acknowledged.”
As DeeDee clears out of the engagement zone some distance to the northeast, you bank gently and start to close in on the two ships, lighting up your Exocets for a shot on the freighter.
It takes a few seconds before you get a firing solution, and before long your RWR notifies you that the Pakistani frigate is now tracking you on radar.
You fire one, then another Exocet missile from about 70 kilometres out. 3,000 pounds of anti-ship missile roars away from you on huge tails of flame, descending gradually to skim along at sea level at over nearly the speed of sound.
For your part, you and French pull a 180 and hit the afterburners HARD.
You launched from just outside the SAM range of the Pakistani frigate, and are relieved to find that there are no missiles on your tail. Your two Exocets race across the ocean. The first one is tracked and gets tagged by the frigate’s CIWS, exploding several kilometres short of its target.
The second one punches through the side of the freighter and is halfway out the other end before it explodes like a motherfucker, launching the cargo ship half out of the water and breaking its back before it crumples back into the sea, flooding and slowly capsizing.
“Closing on the IL38. You sure about this?” DeeDee asks.
You’ve been deliberating on whether it would be a good idea to take out the IL38 and attempt to mask your strike with the appearance of an India-Pakistan skirmish. In the end you err on the side of caution and advise DeeDee to break off his approach. The very present of an ELINT plane in the vicinity will probably be enough for Pakistan to blame India for this attack.
You ride your afterburners for as long as you can, speeding out of the conflict zone. Eventually DeeDee loses the IL38, flies at nearly sea level for a few hundred klicks, then forms up on your wing for the rest of the trip back to Oman. You touch down at your desert base, elated, having only fired two missiles and scored a critical hit on your target. Even if it hasn’t sunk, surely its contents are damaged beyond any potential usefulness to North Korea.
Your superiors are concerned that there are witnesses, but glad that you were not involved in an escalated incident. You earn a hefty bonus for your sinking of the cargo ship and handling of the incident. Broad Arrow promises to look after your equipment. It is probably best if you lie low for a while and let the company’s “PR” department handle any international fallout.
There is probably a yacht waiting for you in the Mediterranean. Good job, C.W. Perron.
C.W. Perron: 1 freighter