August 22, 2002 SCRAMBLE!
At 0230 we received word of a massive incoming strike force. As a forward base we had an F16 and Mirage CAP in the air but were unprepared for the intensity of the attack. We counted four groups of aircraft inbound including Su27s and MiG 29Ms, acting as escort for an undetermined number of Su25s.
My wingman and I tasked to INTERCEPT and were in the air within ten minutes of the order. We climbed to 25,000 feet before generating shoot lists. I ordered my wing to bracket right and engage the second group while I engaged the first.
Our loadout was heavy, with 4 AIM 120Rs, 10 AIM120Cs, and two AIM9x each. These latter were mostly for self-defense if we could not avoid a close encounter. With maximum external weapons we were far from stealthy.
I engaged with AIM120Rs just under maximum range, about twenty eight miles. Less than a minute later I used ripple fire mode to release all 10 of my medium range AMRAAMs at ten more bandits. I pulled high g's and went back to EMCON 1 in an effort to go stealthy and avoid any more closure until I could assess the damage and continuing threat level.
My wingman called out FOX 1 moments after I released my last missile.
The intention of this initial engagement is to destroy as many of the fighter escort as possible and then allow the F16s and if necessary, ourselves, to engage the lower threat aircraft with guns and missiles. In the next minute or so I counted enemy losses of eight aircraft from my fourteen launches and assessed that only one of the fighters had escaped damage.
Almost within launch range of the remaining Su27, I had not been detected and turned to close the gap. I launched a single AIM9x and impact was about 12 seconds later. The scramble mission was going well!
In the meantime my wingman had done a good job also. Of approximately thirty aircraft in our groups fifteen were down. It was time to re-arm and let the F16 CAP deal with whatever they could. We were now eighty-five miles from base.
As we turned to head for home we were locked up by a radar in the third group. Checking my data link I found that two MiGs were painting me. At 120% throttle we continued to increase the distance until at about twenty miles the MiGs lost lock but continued to pursue us. The rest of the incoming strike group was heading for another destination.
Racing for base at 30,000 feet we touched down with just over twenty miles separating us from the incoming group. The F16s engaged rapidly and took out both the pursuing MiGs.
Re-arming quickly we took off immediately to continue to engage the strike force. They were about fifty miles south of the base and passing to the south- west.
Climbing to 35,000 feet at full afterburner we reduced power to 120%. I noted the closure rate of 500 knots, with the majority of the strike group at 15,000 feet. We quickly closed the distance.
When within launch parameters for our ramjet assisted AMRAAMs we launched all weapons. Before the first weapons found their mark we were within launch parameters for our 120Cs (twenty-five miles) and I launched eight more of my weapons.
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As the first 120R found its mark the fighter escort turned to find us. Neither of the fighters survived the second volley of medium range missiles, leaving only eight Su25s to trouble us. Now two on eight and with four AIM9x between us I was confident we could dispatch the remaining strike force alone.
Engaging with IR missiles as soon as within parameters we were down to two on six when within two miles of the strike force. Closing rapidly we engaged with guns on their sixes at 16,000 feet. My wingman took out one of the remaining Su25s on his first pass and I took out mine a moment later. However, the Su25s were now aware of the threat and were maneuvering wildly.
Unfortunately TWO took a hit a moment later and was forced to punch out. I called in his position as I engaged another Su25. I was able to get a piece of him before the other two remaining were certain to pose a threat. With one wounded Su25 and two fully maneuvering engaging me, it was time to make discretion the better part of valor! I broke low with full afterburner to extend and create some distance...
I was at half fuel and down to 150 rounds, one hundred and ten miles from base. So far as I knew I hadn't taken any damage.
I'll never know for sure what happened. One of the Su25s launched an IR missile at ten miles. I jinked and dumped flares and there was no impact or explosion. Roughly thirty seconds later I had a low fuel warning! Impossible! I checked my system panel and I was definitely losing fuel.
This could have been incidental damage from one of the close range Su25 kills or it could have been a random failure.
I had climbed gradually to thirty thousand feet to make the best time possible back to base. At 110% throttle I was pulling away at over 250 knots, but I was still eighty miles from base. How long would my fuel last? I cranked up to full afterburner; might as well burn it as dump it.
At just under 20 miles from base my fuel was gone. I would do a no power landing and I had one pass to make it. I also had two Su25s at about twenty miles and no CAP over the base. I called for a Direct Approach and received clearance.
By the time I touched down (half way along the runway) the Su25s were at ten miles. One disappeared from my data link a moment later, the victim of an allied SAM site. By the time I was at full stop the second had passed overhead. I watched as a Mirage was vectored his way, but another SAM got him before the Mirage launched.
All in all a very successful mission, even with the loss of one F22 and unknown damage to a second.