It still captivated him after all these years.
The sight that was set before him was just impressive; twenty-four Eagles armed to the teeth, each driven by the best pilots the coalition could find.
As the aerial armada continued to near its destination, he noticed something strange: an anomaly; five contacts suddenly appearing on the scope before disappearing into the blue.
He decided not to report it; it was probably just a minor technical glitch caused by the aging computer systems in the aircraft. Instead, he decided that it would be an excellent time for a coffee break; the long incursion flight had taken a toll on the crew, and he was feeling the effects as well.
After reaching the coffee maker, he poured himself a cup and heartily enjoyed every last drop.
Funny how a simple pleasure can just change your whole outlook on life, he thought to himself before he felt the most intense heat he had ever imagined.
"Holy shit, our AWACS just dropped off the radar!"
"Gunslinger, can you hear me? Please respond!"
"Where’d that missile come from?"
The news that was delivered by the cacophony of voices made his heart sink.
Here they were, stuck out in the middle of enemy territory, no support, and their AWACS just blew up. Everyone in the squadron immediately began evasive maneuvers, asking if it was a SAM or some other kind of missile, but he knew.
He knew exactly where that missile had come from and who – or what – had fired it.
He decided to look at his radar display, and he saw them; five bandits closing in at mach two, all of them on an intercept path to the formation.
"Guys, we have five bandits on an intercept course. I think they’re the infamous Yellow Squadron," he said solemnly.
The radio channel fell into silence as every pilot stared at their radar scopes and took in the gravity of the situation. However, the silence did not last long as the pilots snapped back to reality and began offensive and defensive maneuvers.
The twelve Eagles that were assigned to perform top cover fired a volley of long-range missiles at the formation to no avail. They soon fired a second volley before engaging afterburners and heading towards the merge.
The other twelve Eagles, each weighed down with the heavy air-to-ground ordnance opted to stay out of the dogfight, knowing that they would be easy pickings for the advanced fighters that were attacking the air superiority fighters.
As they neared the merge, his radar warning receiver blared in his ears, informing him to the fact that a medium-range missile had his name on it. Of course, nearly every other pilot in the twelve-plane formation received a missile warning as well. They all began evasive maneuvers, a complicated dance that involved pulling hard turns while deploying chaff to confuse the radar-guided missiles.
After pulling a series of high-G turns, his RWR quit its annoying whine, and he immediately looked at his radar to see who made it through the gauntlet.
Seven planes out of twelve of the most advanced fighters in their inventory had made it through the first part of the engagement.
A variety of emotions swirled in his head, but he shut them all out. He had to make it out alive; he had to survive this battle.
The others regrouped and datalinked telemetry on their opponent’s Flankers, and released all of their radar-guided missiles as they neared the merge, and he held his breath in anticipation, waiting for a contact or two to disappear from the screen. He watched as the missiles neared their targets, and he continued to watch as the missiles screamed past their marks.
That's all he really could do, considering his realization that they were completely and totally fucked, and that their chances of survival were equivalent to nil. Despite this, however, he continued to fight.
The two formations merged, and he broke to try to get on the tail of one of the Flankers; however, his aircraft simply could not keep up with the superior maneuverability that the Flanker’s thrust-vectoring engines had offered it. He continued his chase, hoping that the pilot would slip up.
And the pilot did, or so he thought. The pilot had entered level flight, and the lock-on indicator from his heater whined in his ears.
Then the unbelievable happened.
The plane stood up on its tail, and seemed to hang in mid-air for a split second, and during that split second he shot out right in front of it. The pilot of the opposing plane nimbly brought it back to level flight and pushed up on the throttle to regain the lost airspeed, and soon he became the hunted.
He started his evasive maneuvers, each turn being an attempt to prevent his enemy from gaining a firm missile lock. All around him, the planes of his friends and comrades exploded into fireballs, quickly leading to the realization that he was the last one.
He pulled another hard turn, and his heater had gained a lock onto another bandit. The sound of vengeance, the sound of the heater’s lock whined in his ears, and he fired. The missile blazed through the sky; its smoke trail gradually nearing its target until it exploded harmlessly into a cloud of flares.
His heart sank, and now a more ominous sound entered his mind.
It was the sound of his RWR screaming, screaming for him to evade, break lock, or even eject, but he couldn't do a thing.
All he could do was sit there and hang his head until the enemy's missile found its mark.