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War story: Vipers over Bosnia

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  • War story: Vipers over Bosnia

    This was posted on my site recently by one of the ex USAF jet jocks. Figured you guys would really dig it:

    "Since its allready all over the net, admired the carpet for 2 months, here ya go.....

    Well, I'm finally back in England after being TDY since the end of January, at
    least for two weeks anyway. Got sent direct to Cervia AB, Italy, from Operation
    Northern Watch in Turkey after being at the Incirlik AB for over 7 weeks ("Luv
    the 'Lik" no 'mo ! ). My house and yard is a total mess!

    There doesn't seem to be an end in sight in the Kosovo situation, but the war is
    over for me for a while. Some of you probably already heard through the
    grapevine about what happened to "Boxer" and I. Here's the proverbial "Rest of
    the Story."

    Boxer and I were tasked as Bosnia-Herzgovinia DCA on 26 Mar, vul time from 1500Z
    to 1900Z. We were established on CAP over Tuzla for about an hour after initial
    refueling. At 1602Z, while eastbound approaching the Bosnia/Yugoslavia border, I
    got a radar contact 37 nm to the east, 6k', beaming south at over 600kts.

    Of course AWACS had no clue and did not have any inkling of someone was flying
    on the other side of border (although he was real good at calling out every
    single friendly WEST of us!).

    I called out the contact and Boxer was locked same. Without an ID and not
    tactically sound to cross the border at the time, I elected to pump our
    formation in a right hand turn through south and called "PUSH IT UP, BURNER,
    TAPES ON!" (We were initially flying .85M, 28K' and rolled out heading
    west/southwest.) At that time I didn't think anything much would happen. I
    figured the contact would probably continue south or turn east and remain well
    on the east side of the border.

    Nevertheless, I called the flight lead of the south CAP over Sarajevo and gave
    him a craniums up on the posit of contact, altitude, and the heading. This
    entire time AWACS still had no radar contact, even after I called it out on the
    radio. Man, running away with the contact at our six o'clock with AWACS not
    having any clue was NOT comfortable!

    Boxer and I continued west for a total of 60 sec (about 10 nm) before I directed
    the formation to turn back hot, again turning through south in an attempt to get
    some cut-off. Boxer was on the north side of the formation (left side as we
    rolled out heading east). We both got contact BRAA 070 for 37 nm, 23k', target
    now heading west (hot towards us). AWACS finally woke up and starting seeing the
    same thing. Now, I'm starting to think **** IS GONNA HAPPEN (evident with the
    increase of about two octaves in my voice!)

    It was fairly obvious this guys originated from FRY, and there were no OCA
    missions at the time. Checked AAI for friendly.. squawk: nobody home! We still
    needed to get clearance from AWACS to engage, so I requested (codeword) and got
    no reply from the controller (pretty sure he had no 'freakin clue what that
    codeword meant!) About this time both Boxer and I got good ID on the target in
    our own cockpit and with threat hot towards us inside 30 nm decided to blow off
    the AWACS/clearance to engage restriction and go for it!

    Target was now inside 30 nm and I directed Boxer to target the single group. I
    broke lock and went back to search in 40 nm scope and 120 sweep. The target
    check-turn towards northwest (about 14L aspect) and descend to high teens. Boxer
    and I checked about 30 deg left to northeast for cutoff. This check-turn slung
    me aft in the formation so I stroke it up to full AB to get more line abreast. I
    called "COMBAT 1, ARM HOT" and saw Boxer's wing tanks come off with bright
    flames under the wing. Pretty impressive!

    I was well over the Mach when I punched my tanks off and the jet jumped up
    abruptly (you can see it in the HUD). Took a quick look back to check and see if
    my stabs were still intact... I rolled my elevation coverage looking from about
    5K' to 21K' and no kidding stayed in search for at least one full frame (believe
    me, I wanted to go back to single target track SO DAMN BAD!) AWACS started
    calling out two contacts, lead trail. Sure enough, I was starting to see the
    break out on my scope!

    At about 20nm, Boxer called "FOX 3, 18K!" I saw the cons/smoke from his jet and
    thought: "SONOFA*****! I gotta get me some!"

    I commanded miniraster on the leader and as soon as radar lock (about 17nm),
    immediately thumbed forward to HD TWS. My first shot came off inside 16 nm from
    the leader. When I pressed the pickle button, it seemed like an ETERNITY before
    the missile actually launched, but when it did...WOW!!!! I have never shot an
    AMRAAM or AIM-7 before at WSEP (and I don't think I have a chance in hell of
    shooting more missiles at WSEP after this!)

    The missile came off with such a loud roar/whoosh, I not only heard it clearly
    in the cockpit above the wind noise, radio comm, ear plug, and helmet, I
    actually FELT the rocket motor roar!

    In the HUD, you can see the flames shooting out from the tail end of the
    missile, and the smoke and cons following it! Stepped immediately to the trailer
    in HDTWS and press and held the pickle button for at least 3 seconds. Again,
    thinking: COME ON, DAMN IT! LAUNCH!

    The second missile came off just as impressive as the first after the same
    painful delay. I yelled "Dxx 1, Fox 6, lead trail!" ("Cxxx" later critique my
    comm as incorrect 3-1 terminology... EAT ME!)

    Since Boxer was the primary shooter, I assumed he was locked to the leader, so I
    kept the trailer as the PDT. Didn't want to screw with a good thing, I stayed in
    HDTWS inside 10nm ("Dxxx", our WIC dude, promptly criticized me for NOT going
    STT inside 10nm upon reviewing my VSD tape, thus I still have to pass my IPUG
    Tac Intx ride!). Both targets started a check-turn to the southwest (14L to H to
    16R aspect) and continued to descend to low teens. Approaching 10nm, checking
    RWR to make sure we weren't targeted:

    "Dxx 1 naked !"
    "Dxx 2 naked !"
    "Dxx [flight], let's go pure!"

    From 30K', both of us rolled our jets inverted and pointed nose low directly at
    the TD box on the HUD, and pulled throttle to idle. I think my heart rate at
    this time was reaching my aerobic limit for my age (you know, that formula: 220
    minus age...)! Against a broken cloud background, I saw a tiny dot in the TD box
    about 7 to 8 nm out. "Dxx 1, tally ho nose 7 nm, low !"

    Realizing I saw the trailer, I was praying Boxer would soon follow up with a
    tally call on the leader. Approaching 5 nm, I'm scanning in front of the trailer
    for the leader but no joy. ****! The trailer continued his left turn to
    southwest and I was looking at approx 14R aspect. Inside of 5 nm, thumb aft to
    AIM-9 and tried twice to uncage but the tone was not there.

    Just then, between the HUD and the canopy bow (about right 12:30 to 1 o'clock
    position), I saw the leader explode! The best visual description I can think of
    is if you held a torch from one of those Hawaiian Luau party, and swing it
    through the air. The flame with a extended tail trailing the torch is exactly
    what I saw! Turning my attention back to the trailer, the trailer exploded into
    a streaking flame seconds later just as I tried to uncage the missile the third
    time! Never mind!

    "DXX 1, SPASH TWO MIG-29s, B/E 0/35 !!!" [Name], I'm ashamed... I was screaming
    like a woman! Didn't really bothered to keep an eye on the fireballs, so I
    didn't see any chutes. Later report confirmed both pilots ejected safely. Not
    that neither Boxer nor I would've felt bad if they morted.

    Anyway, I called for Boxer and I to reference 080 heading and short range radar.
    Thumbed aft to AUTOGUNS and plug in full AB and accelerated to 460 kts at 20K'.
    My cranium was on a swivel and breathing like I just ran a full sprint!

    "Dxx 2, blind!" Crap!!!! I looked north and it took me a few seconds to find
    Boxer (about 3.5nm left and stacked high). Tried to talk his eyes back to me,
    but Boxer called out to west in a right turn. I waited a few seconds to sanitize
    and turned west as well. During the turn, I immediately pulled into double
    beeper due to airspeed and Gs (looking back, I should've over G so the mission
    would've been more impressive... :-)

    Rolling out, I was 3 nm in trail of Boxer, so I had him shackled to the south to
    pick up line abreast. The fun wasn't over yet. Boxer got an AUTOGUN snap lock
    less than 10 nm south of us, low alt, with no ID. I told him to press for VID
    while I followed him 3 nm in trail. We were diving back down to the low teens
    and I saw ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on my radar!

    Boxer all of a sudden pulls up and yells "Dxx 2, unable ID!" That's BAD!!! I
    just about **** in my pants! I saw nothing and after a few seconds I asked Boxer
    if he saw ANYTHING at all.

    Boxer said he didn't see anything, so we just stroke it up and separate to the
    northwest for a while, then came back for a second look. Nobody home! Boxer
    thought it may have been a bad radar lock. I sure hope so!

    The rest of the sortie was one excitement after another. While on the boom,
    AWACS controller started calling out every single ground traffic as possible
    contact crossing the border into Bosnia. For a while it sounded like a mass
    attack on Tuzla! By now it was night time, and Boxer (in an offset 3~5 nm trail)
    and I were still running around with our hair on fire!

    One time AWACS called out contacts very low alt moving towards Tuzla westbound.
    I didn't see squat on my tube, neither did Boxer. As the position of group
    started getting closer to Tuzla, I expected to see a burst of explosion from the
    airfield underneath! Boxer and I were gonna go from "heros to zeros" real soon!

    Finally I turned the GMTR setting on my trusty APG-70 to low and immediately saw
    the targets. Locked them up and show 80 kts ground speed! I wanted to reach
    through the mic and strangle the **** out of the controller! AWACS later called
    out MiG CAPs just 15 nm northeast of the border! Boxer and I were ready to "Pop
    a cap in their ass" across the border as soon as we got contact and ID! Again,
    nothing on the radar. We even did two iterations of grinder with a two ship of
    Vipers and no one got a solid radar hit.

    That night we committed and armed hot THREE MORE TIMES AFTER the Mig kills based
    on ridiculous AWACS calls! No kidding, by the time our replacement showed up (4
    hours of vultime later), I was totally exhausted and drained!

    The flight across Adriatic was uneventful, and Boxer and I finally had a moment
    to think about what happened. After I landed and pulled into de-arm, I saw a
    freak in flight suit and wearing a reflective belt, jumping up and down. Sure
    enough, it was "Fxx" welcoming us back!

    Taxi back to the chocks was like having a bunch of kids following an ice cream
    truck! Everyone came running out and waited at the parking spot for Boxer and I.
    Boxer taxied in front of me as I pulled into my spot.

    Losing all professionalism and radio discipline (yada yada...), I called out on
    Ops freq: "Boxer, You're the ****!!!" Getting out of the jet and greeting all
    the bros and maintainers was THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY CAREER!!! Our Ops Grp
    commander [Name] was first to shake my hand, followed by the mob!

    We were laughing, shouting, hooting, high fiving, and hugging! It was awesome!
    Couldn't wait to review the tapes, we all piled into the "Turtle" and watched my
    HUD tapes. Thank God it recorded everything clearly, including the fireball from
    the trailer.

    Xx and Xx almost knocked me over when they came storming into the Turtle! We
    were all screaming and jumping so hard in the Turtle I though it was going to
    fall over! Too bad Boxer's VSD tape did not run, and his HUD tape was washed out
    due to high aperture setting. Boxer and I were laughing and high fiving the
    entire car ride home! We weren't even supposed to fly that day!

    Some afterthoughts... No kidding it took over a day for this to finally sink in.
    It felt almost surreal that day/night. Our MX officer said it best when he saw
    me hours after I shut down engines: "So, Cxx, have you landed yet?" Only one
    word can describe this event: F**ING unbelievably lucky! Not the fact we shot
    them down, but that they were airborne during our watch. Any Eagle driver
    could've easily done what Boxer and I did, but as Xx said: "You guys won the

    The sequence of events happened in our favor like the planets lining up. The
    jets, the missiles, the radar (well, at least mine) performed marvelously! Our
    MX dudes deserve the bulk of the credit. We had no spares that day. The crew
    chiefs and the Pro Super, [Name], absolutely BUSTED THEIR ASS working red balls
    and launched us on time! Boxer, my wingman, what can I say? Regardless of whose
    missile hit which Mig, WE shot down two Fulcrums that afternoon. We succeed as a
    team, and fail as a team (good thing it was the former)!

    Boxer did an OUTSTANDING job of finding the group, working the ID matrix, and
    target according to plan. If I didn't have faith in him, I would not have broke
    lock and break out the lead trail formation. Of course I'm proud of what we did,
    but there's one thing I'll really stick out my chest for: To everyone who taught
    me and influenced me on my tactical flying and gave me long debriefs (though
    painful at times), especially (names omitted), I DID NOT LET YOU GUYS DOWN!!! It
    doesn't get much better than this guys! Well, maybe two more kills would be
    pretty cool... That's all I have to say"