It was not until 1981 that the F-14 would be part of actual combat. In the 1970s, Libya had claimed a 12-mile extension of its territorial waters in the Gulf of Sidra, which had prompted US naval forces to conduct Freedom of Navigation operations in that area. These operations increased when Ronald Reagan came to office; he authorized a large naval force, consisting of three aircraft carriers, to conduct naval operations in the area in the summer of 1981. The Libyan Air Force responded to this by sending its aircraft out over the gulf to monitor American activity; there were several intercepts over the gulf, in which both sides maneuvered aggressively, but fired no weapons. But this was to end just a few days later, on August 18, 1981. This time two VF-41 F-14s intercepted two Libyan Su-22's. Only few seconds before the crossing, at an estimated distance of 300 m one of the two Libyans fired an AA-2 "Atoll" at one of the F-14s, which missed. The short range (well inside the gun's range) and the inability of AA-2 to engage in frontal engagements seems to indicate that this weapon was accidentally fired. Then the two Sukhois tried to escape. The American pilots fired AIM-9L Sidewinders, hitting both targets. Both Libyans ejected.
Less than an hour later, while the Libyans were conducting a Search and Rescue operation of their downed pilots, two fully armed MiG-25s entered the airspace over the gulf and headed towards the US carriers at Mach 1.5 and conducted a mock attack in the direction of USS Nimitz. Two VF-41 Tomcats and one VF-84 Tomcat headed towards the Libyans, who then turned around. The Tomcats turned home but had to turn around again when the Libyans headed towards the US carriers once more. After being tracked by the F-14's radars, once again the MiGs finally headed home. One more Libyan formation ventured out into the gulf towards the US forces later that day.
Libyan Fighters and Somali anti-aircraft artillery fire
In April 1983, two Tomcats operating from the carrier USS America (CV-66) were fired upon by Somali troops while flying over the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden. The F-14's were on a prearranged mission, but the Somali forces apparently mistook the Tomcats for Ethiopian attackers. No Tomcats were hit.
In late summer 1983, due to the Chadian-Libyan conflict, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) had entered the Gulf of Sidra. On August 1, two VF-142 F-14As encountered two MiG-23s heading towards the carrier group which were quickly intercepted and forced away. Four days later VF-143 intercepted five MiG-23s some 220 kilometers south of the battlegroup. No weapons were ever fired during these encounters but the situation was "very tense".
Operations in Grenada and Lebanon
Later that year, F-14s were heavily involved in combat once again. VF-14 and VF-32 flew TARPS-missions and combat air patrols in support of Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. The US and a few Caribbean nations invaded the island due the execution of the islands Prime Minister, the US wanted to evacuate American tourists from the island after the communists took control and toppled the Marxist government. F-14s aided the effort by providing reconnaissance imagery as well as providing cover in the event Cuba decided to interfere, because communist forces on the island had ties with Cuba. In December USS Independence (CV-62) along with its air wing moved to the Mediterranean Sea to support the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon, a country shaken by civil war, VF-14 and VF-32 once again flew combat air patrols over Lebanon. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) with VF-142 and VF-143, and USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) with VF-11 and VF-31 also participated in the operation.
The multi-national peacekeeping force was threatened by both Lebanese military groups as well as Syrian forces resulted in the deployment of these carrier groups. During these missions US aircraft, including F-14s, were under fire from Syrian Surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery. VF-11 even engaged eight MiGs over Lebanon. The section flew cover for a TARPS F-14 and was ready to open fire at four MiGs but the MiGs did a split S and ran for Syria. Four more MiGs emerged and blew through without engaging. These incidents resulted in US air strikes against Syrian positions near Hammana. During the attacks one A-7 Corsair and one A-6 Intruder were shot down. The A-6 pilot was killed and his Bombardier/Navigator taken prisoner and released a year later. The A-7 pilot ejected and was recovered by friendly forces.
The Achille Lauro incident
In 1985, F-14s once again made the headlines of newspapers around the world. On October 7, 1985 the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro, with some 100 passengers on board, was hijacked off the coast of Egypt by terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front. The ship's captain was ordered to sail for Tartus in Syria and soon the hijackers informed Egyptian authorities of their action by radio and stated their demand for release of 50 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The ship was eventually denied docking in Syria, so the terrorists responded by killing one of their hostages. They pushed the elderly, wheelchair-bound, Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer to the side of the ship and the terrorist leader then shot him in the head and chest, and threw his body overboard. The Syrians still denied the ship to dock in Tartus; the terrorists intended to execute a second passenger, but the terrorists received a radio message from PLF leaders instructing them to leave the passengers unharmed and head to Port Said in Egypt. Once there the Egyptian government, unaware that Klinghoffer had been murdered, provided the hijackers with safe passage in exchange for freeing the ship and its passengers.
Soon the murder was discovered and the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt demanded that the Egyptian government prosecute the terrorists, but the Egyptians stated that it was too late as the hijackers had already left the country. But through clever intelligence work the National Security Council determined that the terrorists were still in Egypt and were about to be flown to Tunisia on an Egypt Air 737. A plan was devised where USS Saratoga would launch F-14s to intercept the 737 before it would reach Tunisia. The carrier group was steaming northward through the Adriatic Sea for a port call at Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, on the afternoon of October 10, 1985 after the completion of a major NATO exercise in the central Mediterranean. The carrier received orders from Sixth Fleet headquarters to reverse course and to launch alert combat air patrols. F-14s from VF-74 and VF-103 along with an E-2C Hawkeye were airborne and it was soon known that they were after the hijackers, although the 737's exact takeoff time from Egypt, its route and altitude were unknown. The plan was for F-14's to make night intercepts and identifications of air contacts in the skies crisscrossing the central Mediterranean as they flew east toward a common airway intersection point south of Crete. After four interceptions, following two hair-raising, lights-out intercepts of darkened transport planes, the F-14s found the correct aircraft. At about 2230, 30 miles southeast of Crete, they formed up on a 737 airliner with the tail number 2843. A Navy air controller aboard the E-2C spoke with the airliner's pilot; the F-14s' presence and the controller's implied threat of a shoot-down convinced the 737's pilot to land at the NATO base in Sigonella, Sicily. Upon landing, the airliner was quickly surrounded by American soldiers. The terrorists were ultimately taken into Italian custody.
Operations against Libya
1986 was also a very busy year for the F-14. On March 24, 1986, F-14s came under fire from Libyan SA-5's over the Gulf of Sidra but the missiles fell harmlessly into the water. Later the same day, F-14's from VF-33 encountered Libyan MiG-25's, who were ordered to shoot down at least one of the F-14s. The Libyans were outmaneuvred by the Tomcats who ended behind the Libyan fighters, but the Americans did not have permission to open fire..
These and other incidents prompted the US Navy in the region to conduct air strikes under Operation Attain Document against Libyan air defences and naval vessels. F-14 Tomcats from VF-33 and VF-102 on board USS America (CV-66) provided air cover during these strikes.
On April 15, 1986, VF-33 and VF-102, along with VF-74 and VF-103, participated in Operation El Dorado Canyon, a series of air strikes against Libyan targets due to their support of terrorism.
Blue on Blue Engagement
According to the magazine AIR International, the F-14 have not just shot down Libyan and Iraqi aircraft, but also an USAF F-4 Phantom over the Mediterranean Sea in 1987. An account of the incident, revealed that during an exercise a young F-14 pilot from VF-74 The Bedevilers received the call "Warning Red, Weapons Free", the young pilot was alarmed and asked his seasoned RIO if he was supposed to shoot, and the RIO replied "Yeah, go ahead and shoot 'em". The RIO of course meant to do a simulated attack, but the pilot misunderstood, armed an AIM-9 Sidewinder and fired at the RF-4C Phantom. The USAF crew did not know what hit them because there was no explosion when the Sidewinder hit the Phantom. The F-4 crew was picked up, and was quite demoralized before they were told what had actually happened as now they would not have the burden of losing a jet to unknown causes.
Joke cartoons quickly emerged such as, "USN 1 USAF 0" being faxed to the USAF. There was some retribution for the Navy because a few years earlier, a USAF exchange pilot flying with the same squadron that shot down the RF-4C in 1987 shot down his flight leader with a Sidewinder, so fax responses back to the USAF started "Now, we're even!"
F-14s and the Tanker War
During the Tanker War between 1987 and 1989, several US Navy carrier groups deployed to the Persian Gulf to protect international shipping. On several occasions, F-14's intercepted Iranian fighters over the Persian Gulf. In August 1987, an Iranian F-4 Phantom II engaged an US P-3 Orion, which provoked a VF-21 F-14 to open fire with AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, although these launches were all well out of parameters and scored no kills.
On April 18, 1988, the United States retaliated against Iran following the April 14, 1988 incident where USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) struck an Iranian mine in international waters. Air strikes was conducted by Carrier Air Wing 11 against Iranian oil platforms that had been identified as support bases for Iranian attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf, VF-114 and VF-213 provided air cover and F-14s scared away an F-4 formation during the strike.
The Libyans once again
On January 4, 1989, two F-14As from VF-32 Swordsmen assigned to USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) shot down two Libyan MiG-23's with two AIM-7M "Sparrows", that failed at distances of less than 30 km, then one other was fired by the second F-14 and this time shot down the MiG. The other was pursued and shot down by a AIM-9L or M Sidewinder. The MiG-23s were pursuing the F-14s in an attempt to get into a missile firing position for several minutes before the F-14s concluded that they were under attack and outmaneuvered the Floggers. Both of the Flogger pilots were seen to have ejected. The AIM-7s which failed was probably either a failure to track the target or a failure for the rocket motor to ignite, since the failure was noted almost immediately after launch and the second AIM-7 was launched about seven seconds later. A missile was launched at the F-14s just before the AIM-7 hit its target but they managed to avoid it. An audio recording of the engagement is available here
Operation Desert Storm
When Iraq invaded neighbouring Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and USS Independence (CV-62) were the first carriers on station to support Operation Desert Shield. When Operation Desert Storm started, VF-1, VF-2, VF-14, VF-21, VF-32, VF-33, VF-41, VF-74, VF-84, VF-102, VF-103, VF-142, VF-143 and VF-154 all participated in either the build up to the war and/or the war itself. A total of 4,125 sorties were flown by the 99 F-14s present in the Persian Gulf and during the war, F-14s provided escort protection for attack aircraft, long-range air defence of ships and combat air patrol missions. TARPS-capable F-14's also flew photo intelligence missions. The Tomcat's contribution to the war was quite minimal compared to other aircraft.
The F-14 did not have the needed systems and procedures required to integrate Navy aircraft as part of a joint air component as the Cold War tactics stated that the Navy would operate on its own, they did not expect to have allies fighting alongside any conflict with the Soviet Union. F-14's were unable to solve the strict rules of engagement that would allow them to engage aerial targets using their onboard sensors, instead they relied on USAF E-3 Sentry to give them clearance to fire. Conversely, F-15 pilots could solve all the required ROE criteria for identifying an enemy aircraft.
On January 21, 1991 an F-14B from VF-103 was shot down, piloted by pilot Lt. Devon Jones and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Lawrence Slade, possibly by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile. Lt. Jones was recovered the following day. Lt. Slade was captured and held as a prisoner of war until released on March 4, 1991.
The only air-to-air kill during the war credited to the F-14 was an Iraqi Mil Mi-8 helicopter by VF-1, using an AIM-9 Sidewinder.
The years after Desert Storm were bleak for the F-14. It was on the verge on early retirement due to budget cuts, and ten F-14 units were decommissioned due to its limited ground-attack capabilities. But due to the accelerated retirement of the A-6 Intruder, the US Navy noted that they lacked long-range strike capabilities, and the F-14 was soon converted into a long-range multi-role strike fighter.
Operation Deliberate Force
In August and September 1995, NATO launched Operation Deliberate Force, and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and its airwing supported the operation. F-14s from VF-14 and VF-41 participated in strikes. VF-41 is credited with being the first F-14 unit to drop laser guided bombs in anger when on September 5, 1995, two F-14As attacked an ammunition dump in eastern Bosnia. The bombs were buddy lased by F/A-18s because the F-14 was not yet cleared to carry the LANTIRN pod. VF-41 alone logged 600 combat hours and 530 sorties during this cruise.
Operation Desert Fox and a close kill
With Iraq's failure to cooperate with United Nations inspections, Operation Desert Fox was launched on December 16, 1998. F-14Bs from VF-32 took part in a 33-aircraft strike package on December 16. The first night of the four day operation was conducted by the US Navy only. VF-32 dropped 111,054 pounds of munitions during 16 strike missions and 38 sorties. During Desert Fox many Tomcat firsts were achieved which included the first GBU-24s dropped in combat by the US Navy, the first multiple GBU-24 drop by any platform in combat, the first combat use of the LANTIRN, the first autonomous F-14 delivery of a GBU-10/16/24 and the first use of Night Vision Devices in combat. On December 19, 1998, the last day of the operation, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived in the Persian Gulf, and VF-213 joined the air strikes, taking the F-14D into combat for the first time. During the 1998-1999 cruise, VF-213 executed 19 strikes, dropping 20 laser-guided bombs with a 64% success rate, supporting 11 combined strikes, flying 70 missions, logging 230 sorties and over 615 combat hours, as well as 45 reconnaissance missions imaging more than 580 targets. On January 5, 1999, two F-14Ds on patrol over Iraq encountered two Iraqi MiG-25s. The Tomcats fired two AIM-54 Phoenix missiles (one each), the first ever combat Phoenix launch by the US Navy. The Iraqi jets turned back north and the missiles failed to hit their targets..
Operation Allied Force and a second close kill
VF-14 and VF-41 took part in Operation Allied Force, NATO's aerial campaign against Serbia due to the Serbs' massive displacement of the population in Kosovo, between April 9, 1999 and June 9, 1999. F-14s of VF-14 dropped 350 laser-guided 1000 pound (454 kg) bombs in addition to other air-to-ground ordnance. F-14s flew combat air patrol, escort, strike, acted as Forward Air Controllers, and performed TARPS missions. VF-41 dropped the last bombs of the war on an SA-9 inside the Kosovo border near the peace-signing site on June 9, 1999.
On September 9, 1999, a VF-2 F-14 engaged an Iraqi MiG-23 with an AIM-54 Phoenix missile. Neither aircraft was damaged.
Operation Enduring Freedom
After the September 11, 2001 Attacks, no less than eight F-14 squadrons participated in Operation Enduring Freedom. Flying long-range missions from the Indian Ocean to strike targets around Afghanistan, conducting reconnaissance missions and supporting ground troops. From the start of OEF to the end of Operation Anaconda, F-14s from VF-14, VF-41, VF-102, VF-211 and VF-213 dropped more than 1,334,000 pounds of ordnance on targets. VF-11 and VF-143, alongside CVW-7, dropped 64,000 lb of ordnance, both the Red Rippers and the Pukin' Dogs made history as they dropped JDAM bombs from the F-14 for the first time during the war. VF-103 arrived in Afghanistan in June 2002 when combat was scarce and the Jolly Rogers didn't get the opportunity to drop any bombs during OEF.
During the war, VF-213 logged over 500 combat sorties, 2,600 combat hours and dropped 435,000 lb of ordnance (452 bombs) during their ten weeks over Afghanistan, the Black Lions also had the distinct honor of dropping the first bombs of OEF. VF-102 dropped more bombs (680 of them, totalling 420,000 lb) and logged more combat hours (5000+) then any other F-14 unit that took part in OEF, and the unit lased an additional 50,000 lb of ordnance for other aircraft, VF-211 flew 1,250 combat sorties, logging 4,200 combat hours and dropped 100,000 lb of ordnance. VF-14 led more strikes then any other squadron in CVW-8 and dropped 174 laser guided bombs, totalling 179,324 lb and buddy-lased 28 AGM-65 Maverick-missiles and 23 laser guided bombs, and like their sister squadron, VF-41, they flew the oldest jets in the fleet. VF-41 dropped more than 200,000 lbs of bombs (202 laser guided bombs) with an 82% hit rate, which was a level of accuracy that had never previously been achieved in the US Navy.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
F-14s from VF-2, VF-31, VF-32, VF-154, and VF-213 participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom with great success. The F-14s flew 2547 combat sorties and dropped 1452 GBU/JDAM/MK-82 bombs with just one lost jet due to engine failure. F-14s led strikes deep into Baghdad attacking targets such as the Iraqi Ministry of Information's Salman Pak radio relay transmitter facility at Al Hurriyah, southwest of central Baghdad with JDAM bombs. Another notable mission involved TARPS equipped F-14Ds dropping four Mark 82 bombs on Saddam Hussein's presidential yacht, Al-Mansur (The Victor). F-14s also supported ground troops during the war and acted as Forward Air Controllers for other aircraft. An aircrew from VF-32 was involved in the worst friendly fire incident in the war when the crew attacked a U.S. Special Forces convoy in northern Iraq, believing they were Iraqi forces.
During the F-14's last three years in service, the remaining units all deployed to the Persian Gulf region in support of US forces in Iraq. The final deployment for the F-14 was between September 2005 and March 2006 with VF-31 and VF-213. These two units collectively completed 1,163 combat sorties totaling 6,876 flight hours. They dropped 9,500 pounds of ordnance during reconnaissance, surveillance, and close air support missions in support of the war in Iraq.
Excerpt on the History of the F-14 Tomcat
Author's Note: Do note, that the AIM-54 Phoenix was originally meant to take down Tupolev Bombers loaded with cruise missiles and nuclear weapons before they got into firing range. The lack of success against fighters can be attributed to this often overlooked fact. The missile would be fired from ranges perfect for dealing with bombers, but it was not so good against fighters. This does not deduct from the F-14 Tomcat's potential or the potential of Long Range Air to Air Interception Missiles, for everyone is more concerned with the threats that are close not far away at this time to research a Next Generation Phoenix, leaving the current AIM-120 Slammer Medium Range Air to Air Missile to fill the role of BVR (Beyond Visual Range) ordnance, thank you.
Watching as the massive vessel was brought into harbor, the leader of the Area 88 Foreign Legion could not help but watch in stunned amazement. He had seen only the occasional European carrier, never an American made aircraft carrier. The ship was a sight to behold and was sold to them to give the old girl new life.
"USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, my dear nephew," King Zak spoke, smiling at the hidden expression on his nephew's face as the man tried to keep himself composed, "she is of the Midway-class and part of Roundell's new command, while Kitori will become your new XO."
The former Asran prince spun to face his uncle, surprise evident and written upon his face like a Las Vegas neon sign. The man who knew that his cousin had shown some tact for command, but nothing like commanding a squadron, let alone a much larger command. He knew his cousin had studied at the Annapolis Naval Academy and the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy in America for some time, which explained her attitude as it was the notorious American Flight Suit Attitude, but she learned mostly in the United Kingdom and attended their Military Academy at Sandhurst as well as their RAF academy, though he had studied in France and West Germany. Even with all those qualifications, she had yet to acquire the command skills needed to get a motley crew like Area 88 personnel to follow her, even if she was to try to do so as naked as the day she was born and giving free shows, heaven forbid that ever happens!
Yet, the loss of Roundell would be not so bad. The man had been the 'Silver Fox' in the Royal Navy and had served aboard the HMS Ark Royal before she was decommissioned. Roundell had been deserving of a command and his beloved Blackburn Buccaneer S2 Attacker was originally a Royal Navy Attacker. It would do the old sea dog some good to go back to sea and command the Naval Air Arm from carriers.
He was also getting a sneaky suspicion that he was about to lose all his carrier qualified pilots.
"My brother always thought the Soviets were right," the king said sadly, "I disagree for one simple fact," the king indicated the large ship, "the Soviets chose instead of a strike or multirole ability, their carriers are meant to defend their sub forces, a rather flawed concept if there was any."
Saki Vastral knew what his uncle meant. Air defenses tied up trying to shot down thirty enemy planes, while the other forty are fighting the Air Defense Fighters. It was clear that even if you got ten or twenty, there was still plenty of death flying at you and that wasn't counting the fact that if you had a sub protector in the area, then there was clearly submarines in the area as well and those would be the notable Boomers the sub hunters hunted. The Midway-class carrier now in their fleet would ensure that for the Rebels.
Plus the fact, that the Soviet carriers, no manner the name they used for the various classes such as heavy aircraft carrier cruiser, while only slightly smaller than the Midway-class, though around the same length to slightly longer than an Essex-class, carried even fewer planes than the British made HMS Ark Royal of World War Twovintage which was about twenty meters shorter than their biggest carrier. Though, the two men had heard through a report from their intelligence that the Soviets were working on a new supercarrier themselves. If that was true, then the Soviets may be planning a revision of their combat capabilities, especially in light of the multirole specter of the supercarrier's capabilities.
Of course this also meant, the Soviets would have to trade arms for space if they wanted to challenge the more conventional forces their sub and missile heavy fleet was to fight in the future and that wasn't including the rumors of the Iowa-class Battleships coming back online in America.
"We have also acquired two older Essex-class carriers, USS Bon Homme Richard and USS Bennington, and we may get a third, USS Shangri-La," King Zak was quite excited to have carriers in his fleet, which was made up of second hand ships from other countries, mostly the United States and were a handful of cruisers and mostly destroyers with two lone frigates, former USS Ramsey and former USS Talbot.
"Uncle," Saki was knowingly trending on dangerously thin ground, though he had to play the part, "Can we even afford these ships?"
"Yes, we got quite lucky and as the Americans say, 'Struck pay dirt,'" King Zak then explained that after the loss of an Oil Refinery that led to Operation Tightrope, the need to capture another oil refinery from the Rebels, which Saki knew all about and had seen his people off to do, he had decided to search out other potential oil reserves and what he got, astounded Saki as it had the king.
"Gold and silver was found!?" Saki just stared in open disbelief as gold and silver were rare in desert regions like theirs, and as such, the king nodded solemnly to the fact they had a rare find.
"Not counting a high quality iron deposit and evidence of more important historical and archeological finds among other interesting things we're currently looking into," the king shook his head in disbelief as to have found such things, "and add the oil reserves, though not as large as hoped, but the quality more than off sets that and we can actually afford it and even give the citizens a tax cut which will make the many refugees lives easier now along with the new work and towns of course."
King Zak, like his father, was putting his people before the crown, something his brother didn't understand. Though he had enough power to get people to join, the fact that the Government Forces tended to be better supplied and were finally getting the edge in training meant that the war would go on, but with the new resources and even areas that would be of value to the Scientific and Historical sections of civilizations would be clamoring for entrance, war or no war! Not that King Zak blamed them as the research teams may have found the first and long lost first capital of Asran in the surveys and that excited him more than oil, gold, and silver combined!
It was a dream of every Asran born to find the lost capital and now it seems to have been found and in Government controlled areas. This would lend credence to King Zak and many would join him and his cabinet, now he had started a little house cleaning. The war may very well be over soon.
"Though, we are probably going to have returned them later," King Zak admitted hatefully, "I believe we may only be able to keep one or two by war's end."
"Anymore?" Saki was not going to bother and his face was set as so.
"Cabot and San Jancito, two light carriers of the Independence-class," King Zak said, those he would most likely be able to keep after the war and maybe one or two of the Essex-class or the lone Midway.
"America is phasing out their light carriers in favor of their Attack Carriers and Anti-Submarine Carriers," Saki remembered hearing about that and also, he knew it was also more or less done and the Anti-Sub Carriers were also being decommissioned in favor of the Attack Carriers which people began to call Supercarriers, though he never seen one.
"You mean their Sub Hunters and Supercarriers, of which one is making a port of call in the Trade Hub," King Zak said referring to one of their most vital ports and in translation meant, keep the rebels busy while Roundell played catch up with Naval Training.
"The excuse?" Saki hoped it was a good one.
"There is no excuse, they're arriving after fishing some luckless Italians out the sea after the Rebels sank their fishing ship," King Zak left out what happened next by design.
"Why here then?" he forgot he had not meant to say the fishermen's nationality.
'Damn it!' though King Zak, "there was a mine in the water and it damaged the carrier, though officially it was damaged by part of the sunken ship, luckily it was only to the rudder and propellers, giving the Americans a legal excuse to be in port while repairs are underway or a tow arrives and takes the ship to a more suitable location for repairs and then onward home to America to get a full check up."
"The ship?" Saki inquired, hoping it was a Forrestal or Kitty Hawk carriers he had heard about.
"A Nimitz regrettably," King Zak watched as Saki choked on his cigarette he was lighting, knowing the younger man would need the help and didn't say anything, "USS Nimitz herself to be exact."
"Not good," was all Saki needed to say.
At 342 meters in length and displacing over 103,000 tons full load, a Nimitz-class wasn't something you would purposely damage and not expect a stern rebuke about. The class was nuclear powered and carried an air wing of nearly a hundred planes and helicopters. The Nimitz-class had, to his knowledge, A-6 Intruders and A-7 Corsair II attackers, F-14A(Plus) Tomcat and F/A-18C Hornet Fighters, and E-2 Hawkeye AWAC and then there were the resupply planes that visited the ship and her helicopters, though he had heard something about a new Seahawk helicopter that was replacing the venerable SH-3 Sea King, but he had no clue to what it was. The Nimitz-class also had several point defense turrets of Phalanx Vulcan Cannon and a number of anti-ship/air missile batteries with tough and reinforced armor, including Kevlar for her vitals, and was heavily protected by at least six surface combatants, maybe more and one or two subs, Los Angeles-class attack submarines, not too mention they always had a supply ship or two in her formation and possibly a medical ship, or so he heard. It was something you would definitely not pick a fight with.
He also knew the Nimitz had just been awarded some medal or award of some kind, he had heard it briefly from Mickey Simon, formerly of the US Navy, as the man kept track of his old fleet. It hadn't been much and the old veteran of Yankee Station had only flown from Forrestal and Kitty Hawk carriers, but had a brief service aboard the USS Enterprise, which he was thankful tended to be away from the warzone of Asran.
"At least it wasn't the Enterprise, we'd never hear the end of it!" King Zak said with humorless humor and an empty laugh.
A snort was the answer to that humorless joke.
The two men heard the sound of a ship docking being completed and looked up, as ex-USS Franklin D. Roosevelt was moored at her new home berth. The mighty ship blocking out the sun as it shifted behind the carrier for the time being. It was impressive looking. The gangway connected and Saki had to admit, it was particularly tall. Not too surprising as the ship was 295 meters in length and about 15-20 meters high. She was a large carrier alright, but something was off as they met an American Naval officer looking sheepish.
"Sorry to report, but someone sold you something they were scrapping, but we're put her right in no time," the man saluted and didn't beat around the bush.
The two men didn't like what they were hearing, but decided to let the Lieutenant Commander explain.
Meanwhile, high over the Aslan Desert, three MiG-29B-12 Fulcrum-A fighters were screaming through the sky at Mach 1.5 in a desperate bid to escape death from a pair of lone fighters. The three pilots were all Soviet and wishing for a domestic version of their fighters, namely a Soviet Domestic version. The dumbdowned and downgraded birds they were flying were irritating them to no end. They kept the afterbunners lit and hoped they had managed to outrun them.
The MiG-29 was built to counter American made F-15 Eagles and F-16 Falcons, but when you factor in the pilots, it becomes a lot different. That fact had been made abundantly cleared because they had left for a raid, a major one at that, with forty planes, with half that more as escort.
The mission had been a cinch from start to supposed finish as the escort had even managed to bag an AWACs and its four escorts on top of three patrols and no major interception seemed to be occurring. The Royalist Government Forces had suffered heavy losses, even though they were on the bounce back to fighting back effectively. It still had been easy and they had only gone three quarters of the way. There was supposed to be minimal problems as a major offensive to the south had taken the attention of the remaining Arsan Royal Air Force units and the fact that Area 88 wouldn't be able to intercept them in time was gratifying for the rebels in the group.
Then they had surprisingly encountered the most infamous of Area 88 pilots, the 00-Section led by Shin Kazama, far to the north of their normal routine patrol routes and the whole section of twelve planes had been there.
The odds should have favored the Rebels and their Honcho pilots. The Area 88 pilots had a mixed bag of fighters, including three Thuds, two Scooters (unknown to them, they were upgraded models), a Tomcat, and several new planes they should have feared off the bat. Two Vipers and four F/A-18 Hornets fighters rounded out the formation.
The escorts, about twelve of which were MiG-23MF Flogger-B and the other eight had been MiG-21bis Fishbeds, the current best model and a rather good model at that, went to engage the group of fighters from 00-Section. The twenty planes were flown by a mix of four Honchos, in an element of Floggers, and the rest were Rebel pilots. The two groups closed in and then the Tomcat fired a missile from its position at the tail end of the formation. The Escorts went evasive, but then realized that none of them had been targeted.
The missile had slammed into the Rebel leader of the bombers and three others burst into flame just seconds before.
"Fifty-Fours!" the lead Honcho yelled in surprise, remarking to the American made AIM-54 Phoenix Long Rang Air to Air Interception Missile.
The remaining MiG-29 pilots had been stunned at the loss of the entire First Element of their formation. The 00-Section pilots had somehow covered up their launching of three Phoenix missiles. It would be interesting to see how the battle now went. The MiG-29 pilots were shaken from their stupor when three more Phoenix missiles lanced out from the lone Tomcat.
"Impossible!" yelled a Rebel stating a plain fact that the Tomcat could only carry six AIM-54 missiles.
That was when a partially interception radio transmission was heard.
"Zero-Zero Section Lead, Zero-Three Section Lead here, Fox-Three," the voice was not that of the known Tomcat pilot Mickey Simon.
"More Cats!" someone yelled and with the three missiles that had struck down three more Fulcrums, a rain of a nine more missiles sallied in and the Escort was caught flatfooted and three of the Floggers were fireballs as well as six of the Fishbeds.
Reduced from a group of 60 planed to 44 planes, the newly formed 03-Section Long Range Interception Squad now appearing with in the radar at the edge with the echo screaming 8 Tomcats, the resulting air battle was anything, but short as the Rebels and the Honchos hurriedly regrouped, with the bomb laden Fulcrums dropping their bombs harmlessly into the desert.
The pair of Scooters decided to pick a fight with the Fishbeds along with the Thuds. The Scooters were not the older A-4E Skyhawks, but the new variation the A-4N, a design that was in fact the USMC A-4M that was an improve version for the ARBS system first found in the A-4Y. Yet the A-4N was different in that it had improved dogfighting abilities and equipment, plus a pair of small canard wings on the nose for better handling in a turning fight and an improved engine for greater speed, range, and power. The A-4N is an Aslan custom and there is doubt that many will be made or retained for the nearly fifty year old design.
On the other hand, the trio of Thuds were still F-105D Thunderchiefs and it was becoming clear they weren't up to date anymore. The pilots were going to be getting new F-4J Phantom IIs, which were being worked on in Israel. The pilots were eager to get their hands on those upgraded birds, as Israel was the best when it came to upgrading existing aircraft.
The pair of Scoorters got behind the Fishbeds and forced them to go evasive and in a fighter like the Fishbed, designed for speed, even in its current form it wasn't really meant to dodge around nimble fighters like the Skyhawk. The two Fishbeds attempted to break away and gain speed, but a pair of the Thuds got behind them and a pair of Sidewinders later, they were debris spread across the desert. That was the end of the threat from the Fishbeds.
The Flogger pilots found themselves fighting the American made F-14A+ Tomcat and they were left wondering where the other Tomcats showed up from. It really didn't matter at all at the moment. It was one on one, a duel between American and Soviet Swing Wing aircraft. It was a dream longed for by both nations. In every encounter, it was agreed in some manner, to be called the Swing Wing Jubilee.
Both Swing Wing teams came at one another, fighting and tearing into each other, in the hopes that they would be the one to triumph over the other. It all boiled down to skill and how well the pilots knew their birds.
One of the 03-Section Tomcats suffered a hail of cannon fire that tore apart the port engine and nearly sending the fighter into a deadly spin, but the same Cat had already bagged the first kill of the dogfight, as a Rebel pilot floated to earth on his parachute.
The offending Flogger was lined up by Mickey and the Lucky Playboy sent a concentrated stream of cannon fire into both engines of the offender. The Flogger's pilot wasn't an idiot and punched out as his plane fireballed.
Another Flogger got behind Mickey, but 03-Section leader, Thomas 'Burner' Jones formerly of the US Navy and along with his RIO, Mike 'Crowbar' Jebs, also formerly of the US Navy, got behind the Flogger and put a pair of cannon bursts into the plane. There was no ejection as the cockpit glass was completely red. The plane crashed nose first into the desert.
03-Section Number Two took a missile blow to his tail and both the pilot and RIO punched out as their fighter crashed into the desert in a flat spin.
The offending Flogger was down in turn with a 'Winder into the side of the plane, the pilot barely escaping with his life as his plane was destroyed outright.
It was now 5 against 7 and the battle had just begun.
While the Swing Wing Jubilee was going on, a blue and white F-16 Falcon had gutted the MiG-29 formation. The lone plane had only fired two missiles and fired several bursts of cannon fire, but no less than eight Fulcrums now covered the desert below in their scrap parts. It was an unusual sight to see one aircraft, especially in the Jet Age of Air Combat, to down so many opponents in a single battle.
Heck it was rare for a pilot to get one or two fighters in rapid succession, but in this fight, it was different.
It was a clear day full of enemy planes.
Two of the Hornets quickly joined the Flaming Unicorn and the trio sent a half dozen enemy planes burning towards the ground.
Meanwhile, a Flogger had managed to scrap some of the paint on Mickey's tail, but was downed by a 03-Section Cat.
The Harp Shooter emblazed black and red F-16 Falcon had gotten behind another bandit and 20mm Vulcan Rotary Cannon fire roared to life for a full second, shattering the wing of the Fulcrum and the plane flipped over and Kitori had to dive under the dead plane and when she looked back, it had collided with a Fulcrum that been trying to line her up.
"Two for one, not bad," she remarked off handily, wondering if that counted as two kills or if it was still one.
"Splash one," Greg Gates, a short, but healthy round Danish man with a long nose who had flown for the Danish Royal Air Force, "literally; he tried to Split-S right into the drink."
The Scooter pilot's remark told everyone that the fighting had been dragged now over the Mediterranean Sea. At one time, this ancient trade route had belonged solely to the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom and had been referred to as Cunningham's Pond. It was so named for the man who had fought tooth and nail for the vital trade route, especially in the dark days after the Fall of France to 1943, First Viscount of the Cunningham of Hyndhope, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, who was later First Sea Lord, the Commander-in-Chief, of the Royal Navy.
Now long after the officer who had once chased a superior force of German Destroyers with only 3 or 4 British Destroyers during the Great War, World War One, the ocean was still a vital trade route and was regularly patrolled by ships from NATO, but at this moment, it was a bad place to be if you were a fighter pilot.
"Just as merciful and forgiving as any desert," Hoover said as he brought his aging Thud behind a Fulcrum and spread its remains across the water along with the remains of the unlucky pilot.
The fighting was getting desperate. The 00-Section Flight Leader and his current wingwoman along with the Big Cat pilots had the fuel to keep fighting and even then, the Big Cats of 03-Section had been on a noteworthy patrol in terms of fuel and Mickey was dodging left and right and undoubtedly had been using fuel too.
Which became a moot point when a Flogger getting a bead and putting holes in the fuel tank, forcing Mickey to break off and retreat with another damage Tomcat.
"Greg here," the Dane spoke up in his rough voice, "I'm about Winchester and I don't feel like flying back without bullets, so I'm breaking off, sorry guys," the Big Dane was sorry, but he knew it was just too dangerous to attempt to return without ammo these days.
The second Scooter down another of the MiGs and then spotted something that surprised him.
Twenty F-14 Tomcats bearing the VF-41 Black Aces emblem roared in. The planes immediately began to break up the fight between the Rebel fighters and the Area 88 crews, leaving both factions confused as to what was happening. The Americans were neutral yes, but this was well with in the combat zone for them. Kitori tried to establish communications with the Tomcats. She didn't need to try too hard.
"This Alpha Leader of the Black Aces," an American voice said, "to the Asran Rebels and Government fighters! You have entered into our combat airspace, please leave at once and are advised of currently heavy neutral shipping in the area, all combat is now restricted by resolution pass of NATO in this area at this time," the two groups began to get herded back in two separate groups back to Asran, but one of the rebels took a pot shot at an American plane with an Atoll, killing the RIO and crippling the plane.
"WEAPONS HOLD!" roared Alpha Leader, though he was furious, one Tomcat had already fired and the 20 Mike-Mike had holed the offending Fulcrum from stem to stern and killed the pilot outright.
Still a fight started between the American fighters and a few of the Asran Rebels.
Through, the fact was made plain as vanilla, when several of the Tomcats downed the offenders rather quickly in a two minute fight and began roughing up the remaining Fulcrums, the Swing Wing Jubilee having long since ended with the defeat of the Floggers, once again ensuring the Tomcat's Superiority over its Soviet counterpart, with flybys as though to try and provoke another attempt.
The remaining rebels quietly left with a further stern rebuke to not fight over the open waters, when another burst of fire from American cannons roared in close to an offending rebel who promptly returned to his own group and stayed there.
Not long after land fall was made, the Americans withdrew, and the fight was resumed when some Su-22M5s arrived to help out their missing strike force. The resulting fight was still almost one sided, while the Americans patrolled the nearby coast, to keep anymore offenders over land, though they did send for rescue helos to pick up the survivors since there was little chance of the two sides finding them.
In the end, all, but the three fleeing mercenaries and the two top aces of 00-Section were left, the other planes having withdrawn, but the two aces were running low and had broken off after a six minute chase.
"They should be nearing the end of their range, right?" one of the frightened Russians asked, wildly looking around like a corner animal.
"Should, but do you want to take that chance?" the leader said, though at that moment, their fuel alarms began screaming.
"I don't see them" spoke the third man and the three looked back to see nothing, but when they looked forward, their base had huge smoke columns rising into the air, but there were MiGs in the air beginning their landing approaches.
The base was still theirs.
Yet, it left them wondering who could have done so much damage for there was only one operation runway and all the air defenses and facilities, except for the hospital had been destroyed. It was a good thing their mission had gone wrong. With Sixty thirsty fighters returning, there would be no room. As it stood, the remaining planes of the base number only fourteen that could be seen, plus the three Honchos.
"Could it have been American Fortresses?" the third pilot asked with awe at the apparent destruction and he counted another five planes being rolled out of battered hangers, blacked, but not done.
It was a reference to the American B-52 Stratrofortress Heavy Bombers and more.
Could the United States of America be taking a more proactive stance in Asran now? The only question about that was how long and if this would grow… the Americans would probably try to keep their presence minimal, especially given how the military was feeling the pinch after Vietnam and with their participation in the Middle East Peacekeeping Missions, such as those in Lebanon. The war would still be largely fought by the two factions and getting any further involved could escalate the situation.
Though, that didn't stop the Honcho leader from deciding to find out where the new Area 88 Tomcats came from and finding a way to get back at VF-41 for their added losses.
Yes, Gregori Makarov would show them not to mess with the sons of the Motherland.
At the same time in Japan, a man was fleeing for his life, bound for the same desert country and a duel with the man that has now cost him everything! Yes, a duel to the death in which, once victorious, he would return, claim the wealth, woman, and rights to be a man of influence!
Oh, and he would make that damn independent reporter pay also, for ruining so many of his plans.
Kanzaki smiled, he would much enjoy flying the MiG-29 Fulcrum he had been reading about.
There's the second chapter and I'm playing things up a bit higher than what was originally planned, but hey, I couldn't help myself, I had a tone going, so I decided to see how far I could drag it out.
Also, the A-4N is a OA, Original Aircraft, not an actual Skyhawk variant, but the A-4Y was an attempt to update the A-4M used by the United States Marine Corps. As of very recent years, nearly all A-4 Skyhawks, with their many different nicknames, have been retired. Starting after Korea and ending just shortly ago, a successful plane of fifty years.
Hope you all like!
F-14 Tomcat Lover