November 13, 2009 William Lewis
The year is 2011. A light and dark brown dart tears across an open sea, causing the water underneath it to reach up into the sky and then rain back down. The dart is a semi-truck sized fighter jet, creating a rooster tail four stories high as it skims the surface of the water to avoid being seen by radar. It has two large engines slung underneath and two swept back vertical fins just above them. The wings are also swept back by about 30 degrees. The engines are spaced far apart, with four hatchback-sized missiles tightly arranged in pairs just between them. The nose of the craft extends 15 feet out in front of the intakes, a long bubble canopy starting halfway down the nose and terminating slightly behind the intakes. The plane bears the roundel of the Iranian Air Force, but its two pilots (sitting in tandem) wear G-suits bearing Israeli and United States insignia. The sun is in front of the craft, disappearing behind the mountains just over the horizon.
"I can't believe the Russians would sell two state-of–the-art AL-41F supercruise capable engines to Iran. When I heard about this mission I had thought the Intel people had got it wrong somehow." The back-seater of the craft contemplated out loud in an attempt to start a conversation with the rather stoic pilot who had Israeli insignia on both shoulders.
"Well, you know the economic situation in Russia now. They'll sell anything to anyone, at the right price." the pilot replied, not moving from his semi-relaxed position -staring through the HUD (Heads Up Display) projected on the airplane's windscreen.
"I guess I can't say anything since I'm American." The back-seater said, looking up through the canopy. "We were the people who sold these F-14As to Iran in the first place. All Russia did was provide some awesome engines to bring the Tomcat into the 21st century."
"America made the sale more than thirty years ago. That was back before Iran was aiding terrorists." The Israeli replied quicker than the American thought he would.
"Good point. I've always liked the Tomcat… It was one of the world's best back in the day, and now it is again."
"The airframe has always been good…" The Israeli said, looking over the controls, screens, and dials in front of him. "Now it has the maneuverability and technology to match the speed and brute force."
"Yeah." The American replied with a hint of pride in his voice.
His slight smile disappeared as two blips showed up on the circular radar screen between his legs. "We've got company. Two fighter sized aircraft rising from behind the mountains at twelve o'clock. They're forty miles out." The Israeli griped the stick.
"Any IFF?" (IFF stands for Identification Friend or Foe, an electronic tagging system used by military aircraft.)
"Iranian. We're too low for them to gain a lock on us with radar, but they're probably looking for us with IRST (infra-red heat detection) and laser range finder systems."
The American flipped a switch. "Offensive systems on. We're well within Phoenix missile range."
The pilot's brow furrowed. "What aircraft type?"
"Probably MiG-29s." The American replied. Suddenly warnings blared in the cockpit. "Missiles incoming! Two of em'!" he continued urgently.
"It's begun…" the Israeli thought. "Wait until Sidewinder range before you shoot. The Phoenixes are crap at close range. I'm going to take them head on after dodging the missiles."
"Roger that." the American replied, grabbing the two handles attached to the ceiling of the canopy just behind the pilot's ejection seat. The Israeli glanced in one of the three oval shaped mirrors suspended from the canopy then looked straight ahead.
"Going Supersonic!" he slammed the throttle forward, dumping pure jet fuel into the red-hot exhausts of the engines, igniting the fuel and heaving the jet forward across the water. Several rings of flame appeared behind the engines now, the rings getting smaller as they grew further from the airplane. The wings swiveled back as the craft increased speed (increasing their sweep) and a thunderous double boom echoed as the plane went beyond the speed of sound. The pilot looked up and saw two bright lights arcing towards them.
"Those are the missiles…" he thought, ripping the stick back. The Tomcat's horizontal stabilizers pitched up, putting the F-14 into a rapid and rather violent climb.
The Tomcat streaked upwards, pulling into the vertical. The incoming missiles now flew upwards in pursuit of the Tomcat's heat signature. The F-14's pilot continued to pull the stick back, pushing the craft past the vertical and into a loop. The missiles were now inside of the loop and arcing downwards. The Israeli looked up and behind as the missiles came within 300ft. "FLARES!" he shouted. "Way ahead of you." The American thought, squeezing a button on one of the handles.
The Tomcat released five magnesium flares from between the engines, each an extremely bright light trailing grey smoke and burning at 3100 degrees. The missiles streaked outside the loop, attracted to the intense heat of burning magnesium.
The F-14 now pulled back into the horizontal about a fifth of a mile from the ground. "Let's fight back." the pilot said calmly. He switched to his heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles while the American locked the Tomcat's IRST on to one of the incoming signatures. "10 o'clock high and 2 o'clock high- they're going to split us."
The American advised.
"Ok…" the Israeli replied, peering into the shadow of the mountains. His brow furrowed as a glint of metal flashed to his far left.
"Tally Ho!" he yelled, cranking the stick back and to the left. The ailerons on the wings deflected in opposite directions, twisting the F-14 sideways while the horizontal stabilizers pitched upwards, putting the Tomcat into a carving left turn. The American was thrown to the right and then thrust into his seat as the Tomcat rotated like a Yo-Yo around a finger. The MiG in front of them was now clearly visible, the bright glow of the twin engines tell-tale as it began a hard left turn in an attempt to make the foreigners overshoot.
The MiG-29 "Fulcrum" is currently the world's most popular modern fighter, used by almost 30 nations, despite being technologically a step behind most craft. It has a configuration similar to the Tomcat, with twin engines slung underneath the fuselage, swept wings, twin tails, and a space between the engines. The main difference is that the Russian Fulcrum is shorter, smaller, and stubbier with normal fixed wings instead of the Tomcat's "Variable Sweep" wings, which swing further back as speed increases. Instead of carrying the main weapons between the engines it carries up to six missiles under the wings, the small space between the engines usually reserved for a teardrop-shaped external fuel tank. While being inferior to most other modern craft in long-range combat it can match or exceed nearly any fighter on earth in maneuverability and close range engagements with a good pilot.
Now the pilot of the MiG was making good use of his craft's maneuverability, about to make the Tomcat overshoot. "How did he think he could make this turn?" the American thought, wondering at the Israeli's antics.
"The Tomcat can just about turn with the Fulcrum with the wings swept to 20 degrees (the smallest sweep possible) but not at this speed with the wings fully swept to 68 degrees!"
The MiG had almost made a 180 degree turn, while the Tomcat had just gone past 90 degrees. "If that MiG gets behind us we're toast…" The American thought as the Israeli flipped a switch next to the throttle. Suddenly the engine nozzles at the back of the Tomcat pitched up, pushing the rear of the airplane around the turn while pushing the nose inside the arc of the turn and towards the MiG. As if by magic the F-14's nose caught up to the MiG, pointing directly at the top of engines of the Fulcrum. "What in-" The American thought, wondering what on earth had just happened. "It's the AL-41! These new engines have thrust vectoring capability!"
"Thrust Vectoring" is an ability advanced engines employ which increases maneuverability by directing the thrust of the engine in the direction of the turn.
"Gotcha." the Israeli thought, double tapping the trigger as the IRST gained a lock on the MiG. A Sidewinder missile shot out from beside each intake, their white contrails twisting toward the MiG. The Fulcrum released flares, drawing the second missile away- but the first struck exactly in the middle of the two engines. The rear of the Fulcrum became enveloped in a large fireball as the craft rolled over and started down towards the sea.
"Got em'." the Israeli thought, watching the MiG fall. The Tomcat did a roll, keeping the canopy pointed at the stricken MiG as it disintegrated.
"Where's the other one?" he asked as the Tomcat rolled back upright.
"ON OUR SIX!" the American yelled just before a warning sounded in the cockpit, indicating that the second MiG was locking on to them. The pilot glanced in the mirror mounted to his left. Beyond the twin tails of the Tomcat a light blue fighter plane loomed.
"Not for long!" he said, jamming the stick to the right then pulling back on it. The Tomcat twisted almost upside down then dove away, the MiG falling away in pursuit.
The American was pushed back into the seat as the F-14 accelerated downwards.
"I'd be surprised if that MiG could keep up with this dive," he thought, looking in the mirror suspended between the handles he had in a death grip. The Fulcrum had activated its afterburners and was actually gaining ground on the Tomcat (the F-14 had bled off almost all of its speed in maneuvering with the first MiG).
The two craft shot downwards towards the sea. At this rate the planes would hit the water in less than seven seconds, and the MiG was still closing on the Tomcat- now within 100ft. The American had a good view between the Tomcat's tails via the mirror, and just as the MiG's pilot's face came into view what looked like bright orange basketballs shot out of the MiG's left wing root (where the very front of the wing meets the nose below the canopy).
"He's using GUNS!" the American shouted. Those orange basketballs from the left side of the Fulcrum were 30mm cannon shells, bullets as long as a kitchen knife. Several flew past the left of the F-14's canopy, hitting the water less than 500ft away.
"Overzealous idiot." the Israeli thought, flipping another switch and then ripping the stick back.
A large flap opened between the Tomcat's twin tails, increasing the fighter's air resistance two fold. The Tomcat's wings spread in response to decreased speed as it pitched upwards in an image similar to a bird just before landing. The MiG blew past the Tomcat, impacting the water with an earth-shattering "THOOM" as the larger fighter rose gracefully back into the air after coming within ten feet of the water.
A plume of water the size of an office building became an impromptu grave marker for the Fulcrum's pilot.
"Nice save. Didn't think that a World War I era trick like air-braking could save our butts from that Fulcrum though." the American said, observing the water literally raining back into the sea.
"Tactics haven't changed much in the past hundred years, although the planes sure have." The Israeli replied, turning the Tomcat towards the mountains once again.