USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Persian Gulf

March 4, 2015

Liftoff.

The F/A-18E Super Hornet flew off the carrier, quickly accelerating to 400 mph.

"Successful launch, I repeat, successful launch!" the pilot, Captain Eric Howard, called out through the radio. "Saber Five, what's your status, over?"

"Saber Three, we're launching in one mike, over."

"Copy Saber Five, I'll orbit until you're airborne."

Eric eased on the stick, rolling his aircraft to the left slightly before pulling to the left completely, turning around and making his first pass over the carrier. Looking out the left window of his aircraft, he could see his wingman making final flight checks before taking off. "This is Saber Five, all systems are go. Ready for launch." Seconds later, Saber Five's F/A-18 soared off of the carrier. "This is Saber Five, we are airborne, over!"

"Copy that. Saber Three and Saber Five, proceed northwest to Alborz province and link up with Darkstar Foxtrot, they're being engaged by multiple bandits. Coordinates follow, break." The tower said, before reading out the coordinates and grid number.

"Understood. Saber Five out."

Eric pushed the stick back, and his fighter soared into the clear blue sky.

"Saber Three, leveling off at Angels Five, proceeding to heading 0-2-3, over."


Above Loristan Province, Iran

"Saber Three, this is Saber Five, I have radar contacts, twenty-two miles out, closing quickly, over."

"Saber Five, copy that, I see 'em. Sending IFF tone." Eric hit a few buttons and began to transmit an IFF tone to the unidentified planes. He then waited for a response. None. "No IFF response, over."

"Damn. Prepare for combat!"

"All weapons ready!"

"Contacts confirmed. Two F-5 Tigers, 11 o'clock, nineteen miles out. These guys are Iranian, this shouldn't be too hard."

"Roger that. Locking on."

Eric selected the AIM-120 AMRAAM Active Radar-guided missile, perfect for longer-range engagements.

"Lock!" Eric shouted. He pushed the button on his joystick, releasing the AMRAAM. "Fox Three!"

He watched as the missile streaked into the distance.

"Bandits closing, sixteen miles!"

Eric continued to wait for the missile to hit the target. He figured that the missile would hit any second.

The two fighters continued to stay on radar.

"Damn! He must've popped chaff!"

"Send another one!"

Eric began to lock on to the enemy fighter again. "Lock!" Eric called. He pressed the button again, calling out "Fox Three!" as the missile sped towards the target. By now, he could barely make out two dark dots in the distance, the enemy fighters.

Soon enough, a bright orange light flashed as the missile hit the lead fighter, tearing the wing off and sending the rest of the now-flaming jet spiraling out of control as it plummeted to the ground. After a few seconds, a bright, brilliant explosion engulfed the jet, killing the pilot and blowing the jet to pieces.

"Splash one bandit!" Eric called out.

"Bandit closing, five miles!" Saber Five shouted frantically. "Lock! Fox Two!" he shouted. Eric looked left and watched as Sabre Five's Sidewinder streaked towards the target. The F-5 quickly dropped multiple flares, confusing and distracting the Sidewinder, causing it to miss.

"Damn! Get ready to break!" Eric called out as he switched to the gun. He eased the Hornet towards the F-5, spinning up the 20mm Vulcan cannon in the process. "Guns!" he called out, as he fired the 20mm cannon at the F-5, clipping the wing and damaging the F-5 enough for it to start smoking. "Oh shit!" Eric shouted as the Mirage returned fire, before rolling to the left ninety degrees and soaring right between Eric and Saber Five.

"Breaking left!" Saber Five shouted, as Eric banked to the right. "Stay on him, stay on him!" Sabre Five yelled.

The F-5 began to drop more flares and chaff. "Bandit is dumping flares, we'll get our window soon!" Eric said, as he armed another Sidewinder. The Mirage stopped dropping countermeasures. Once Eric's Hornet was clear of the chaff and flares, he fired off the Sidewinder. The missile sped towards the F-5, striking it in the tail. The explosion completely destroyed the Mirage, pieces of the wings and fuselage falling out of the sky.

"Damn it, Saber Three! When can I get one?"

"Saber Five, I've got two Sidewinders left, about 450 rounds left on my gun. I think you'll get your chance soon enough."

"Roger that."

"Saber Five, resume heading 0-2-3."

"Affirmative. Resume heading 0-2-3."

Eric turned his plane around until he was back on course, Saber Five right behind him.

They flew interrupted for half an hour.

"Shit!" Saber Five said.

"What is it?" Eric asked.

"I got a radar lock! Dropping Chaff!" Saber replied as he dispensed a thick cloud of chaff.

Eric quickly checked his radar. There it was- four blips in the bottom-right corner of the radar screen.

"Confirmed! Four Fulcrum fighters, five o'clock, seventeen miles out and closing!"

"Quickly, swing around and face them!"

Eric quickly swung his Hornet to face the incoming enemy fighters. Suddenly, the Lock Warning began beeping. "Damn it, they've locked on to me!" The missile siren sounded, indicating that a missile had locked on to him and had been fired. "Dumping flares!" Eric called out, as he activated the first set of flares.

Eric returned fire with his own Sidewinder. "Lock!" he shouted. He fired the missile, calling out "Fox Two!" as he did so. He watched as the missile streaked towards the leftmost MiG. Come on, come on, Eric thought as he waited for the missile to impact. The missile suddenly diverted to the left. "Damn! He popped flares!" Eric spun up his 20mm and began to take potshots at the oncoming Mirages.

"Bandits are five miles out and closing! Get ready to break!" Saber Five called out.

Eric now lined up his jet with the lead Mirage, and prepared to take aim. He spun up the 20mm cannon, before yelling "Guns!" and firing at the Mirage. The cannon rounds tore the right wing off, sending the Mirage out of control. "Break now!" Eric shouted, before breaking hard to the right. Saber Five broke left.

Now on the Mirages' tails, Saber Five called out through the radio, "Lock! Fox Two!" as he fired a missile. Eric watched as the missile soared towards the right Mirage, only to be distracted by flares that the center Mirage dumped. "Damn! Going to go for another missile lock." Eric waited for another second. "Lock! Fox Two!" he heard again. Another missile fell froom under the wings of Saber Five's jet before soaring forward into the engine of the Mirage, blowing it to smithereens. "Splash one bandit!"

Eric then lined himself up with the rear Mirage, before firing a burst of cannon fire into the engines and setting them ablaze. The Mirage struggled to maintain stable flight, before the engine finally exploded, sending the wingtips and nose falling to the earth. "Splash another bandit!"Eric began to line himself up with the last Mirage, when suddenly, a missile soared above him and destroyed the Mirage. "Saber Five, was that you?"

"Negative, negative!"

"Then who the hell-"

"Bogeys on our six, eighteen miles out!"

"Send IFF tone."

"Roger. Sending IFF tone."

Eric waited for Saber Five to tell him the response.

"Negative on IFF tone."

Eric immediately activated his scanner.

"Uhh, they look like Fulcrums!" Eric exclaimed.

"You sure they might not be Iraqi? They fly sorties over here quite often."

"Negative. They would've responded by now."

Suddenly, the Radar Lock Warning alarm beeped again. "I'm getting locked on!" Eric shouted. The missile fired, upon which the Missile Warning sounded. "Dropping Chaff!"

Eric quickly activated his scanner.

"Shit!" he cursed. "Saber Five, those are Russian MiGs!"

"Damn it!" Saber Five shouted. "Turn around, hit them head-on!"

"Breaking!" Eric called as he yanked the stick and spun his plane around to face the Russian Flankers. He decided to attempt the same plan he did before, firing his cannon into the lead fighter and then breaking right at the last second.

"Enemy fighters closing, seven miles out!"

Eric's IR Lock Warning sounded. "Dropping Flares!" he announced, as he hit the button to dispense a volley of flares.

"Five miles out!" Saber Five called out.

Eric spooled up the 20mm cannon once more, ready to take on the Russian jets.

"Two miles!"

Eric fired his cannon at the lead MiG, missing to the right.

"Now!" Eric yelled as he pulled back on the joystick and executed a perfect Immelman turn. The two trailing MiGs performed a Pugachev's Cobra maneuver, pulling behind the Hornets.

"Damn! Bandits bled their speed! I have two on my tail!"

"I'm going for the lead fighter!"

Eric armed his one remaining Sidewinder and began to lock on to the lead MiG. The MiG immediately dropped IR Flares, making Eric lose his lock. He began to lock on again. He finally called out "Lock!" He was about to fire the missile when suddenly, a burst of cannon fire from one of the MiGs passed by his cockpit to the right. Shit, Eric thought. He quickly barrel rolled to the right to briefly shake his pursuer. Amazingly, Eric had maintained his lock through the maneuver, so he quickly shouted "Fox Two!" and fired the missile. His heart thumped rapidly now as he waited for the missile to impact. The MiG dropped a cloud of Chaff, ineffective against the IR-guided Sidewinder. Finally, the pilot decided to eject.

Eric, satisfied with his achievement, decided to take a few potshots with the cannon at the pilot. All of his rounds missed, as he had expected. He quickly pulled to the right to avoid hitting the pilot with the Hornet itself.

Now, Eric's IR Lock Warning began beeping. Eric quickly dispensed Flares to counter the lock. However, as soon as the MiG passed the flares, the Lock Warning resumed. The jet, a mere kilometer away from Eric's own hornet, fired another missile. Eric pushed the button to drop flares.

Nothing happened. Eric frantically pressed it again. Still nothing. Eric didn't know if the mechanism had jammmed or if he had expended all of his flares. Either way, he didn't care. There was a missile on his tail that would hit any second. He didn't even have time to send his last-known coordinates. There was only one thing left to do.

He reached for the yellow handle under his seat. He took a deep breath, let himself rest for a second, then pulled it. The canopy of the Hornet broke off and his seat, powered by rocket boosters, soared into the air away from the Hornet. Eric looked down and in front of him to see the Hornet, followed by the missile, trail off into the distance. The missile, a Vympel R-73, smashed intot he rear of the Hornet, decimating the rear of the plane. Eric then looked up as his drogue chute deployed, then left, as he watched the dogfight rage on. It was now Saber Five versus the three MiGs. Eric knew in his mind that Saber Five stood almost no chance against three Russian pilots. As if on cue, a missile launched from one of the MiGs struck Saber Five in the wing, completely destroying the aircraft.

Eric was now falling. It was slow at first, but he soon picked up speed. Fortunately, Eric's main chute was activated by an altitude sensor, so he didn't have to worry about timing the release.

Minutes later, the chute opened. Eric looked down at the forest below him and guided himself towards a clearing.

About another minute later, Eric touched down. He was alone now. In enemy territory.