Mission report: Q Flight sortie 104-R, filed Apr 6, 2000, 1322 GMT; aircraft involved: 309-Q-01; pilot: HdJ
Mission profile: [classified] Target: Somewhere in the USA

There I was...

(Or: Q Flight vs. Larry)

There I was, on my way on what had started out as just another reconnaisance flight. The Realm had seemed peaceful, but you know how our overseas brethren can get. Divided by a common language, and all that. So we kept up the regular recon flights, monitoring their activities etc.

Things had changed. The smoke I was trailing was enough proof of that. The sneaky attack had his signature all over it, but for the moment he was nowhere to be found. A quick 360 degree turn would light him up soon enough, though. No way his Hornet would be able to hide from my radar. There was no point in keeping it switched off anymore, either. The damage to my fuselage would show me clearly on any radar screens, anyway. I'd just have to make sure no one followed me once the attack was over, which should be easy enough. Flying as high as I had (to get decent coverage for the cameras) had felt unnatural anyway, I'd be glad to get back down in the weeds.

But first to get *him*. His callsign was Larry, that much we knew. A renegade, probably. He'd never given any indication of being a member of an organization. Which was fortunate, as he wouldn't have the resources to find out much about us. He was going to find out something very soon, though, about the modifications we'd carried out to the aircraft of Q flight.

There he was.

Turning away from me, too. How arrogant can you get? He'd just assumed his Sidewinder had downed me. Hah. He may have gotten close (which had taught me about the dangers of using the afterburners...) but the IR decoys had worked just in time to get the 'Winder to detonate behind, not in, the exhausts. The damage was mostly superficial, although one fragment had managed to hit the afterburner fuel line, which accounted for the smoke.

(Later we confirmed that the afterburners were a little, um, obvious:)

Anyway. I had just enough time to send an AMRAAM or two up his tail before having to egress on a straight line for the tanker. I was going to have to gain some altitude one more time for the AMRAAMs to launch successfully, rather than hit the ground before the engine lit up. The altimeter was rising gradually, and pretty soon I had enough clearance for the launch. The two missiles streaked away to their target.

I could see him initiate evasive maneuvers as he detected the AMRAAMs' radars, but he was toast, and he knew it. Just before the first hit, the canopy came loose, and he ejected.

Would I see him again? Probably. But for the time being, the skies were safe again.

We hadn't escaped undamaged, (see the bomb doors hanging open? Ruined the fuel consumption, too.)

but the mission had been a success. Not only because we'd kicked someone's butt, we also found some interesting pictures in our cameras.

An airstrip that wasn't on any map. Their blackout didn't help against our thermal imaging, though. Larry's home? We're going to find out...