SKIES OVER THIMPU
DAY 6 + 1035 HRS
Thimpu was a city in chaos. The local governance had broken down completely. Looting and pillaging was everywhere as the residents fled the city to the safety of the south. Pillars of smoke could be seen from areas where government documents were being burnt in large stockpiles even as ragged group of Royal Bhutanese Army trucks sped by, evacuating casualties to the south. When the large supersonic boom broke over the city, it caused many of the remaining residents to jerk their heads up, peering into the morning blue sky above, punctuated with a few white clouds. By the time that sonic wave had hit the city the two Mirage-2000s of the Indian Air Force had already streaked to the north, ripple firing the on-board Astra Beyond Visual Range missiles. The battle for the skies of Bhutan was being fought that cold morning...
“Pickled one and two! Clear release!” The lead Mirage pilot shouted over the comms. In front of him he could see the white contrails of the two missiles heading north, veering slightly to the east.
“Copy, One. Clear release!” the second pilot also confirmed, sending his two missiles on their way as well.
A hundred kilometres to the south, the CABS AEW aircraft had also confirmed clear release of four Astra missiles against the nine inbound CJ-10 GLCMs. With another four missiles on board the two charging Mirages, a total of eight were available against nine inbounds. Even if all eight hit their targets, one would get through. As if on cue, one of the outbound four missiles began veering off track, losing target acquisition. And yet another passed by the blissfully flying GLCM without detonating. The remaining two missiles slammed into their two targets, splashing two of the inbound missiles out of the sky. Even as two orange fireballs announced the detonation of the warheads over the mountains, seven missiles streaked by and continued heading south...
“Two, they are too close for another head on, attempt! Let’s roll in behind for a chase-solution on the remainder!” the lead Mirage pilot said and flipped his aircraft to the right, and pulled down and to the east, attempting to roll in behind the GLCMs. His wingman did the same a second later. By the time the manoeuvre was completed, the GLCMs had streaked past the aircraft and cleared Thimpu. They were now around one hundred kilometres from their target at Baghdogra and closing into the Akash Battery range around Siliguri. Before that, however, the Mirage crews were rolling in behind the missiles...
On board the AEW aircraft, the onboard Mission Controller was already directing more aircraft to the skies above Bhutan, anticipating more such saturation missile attacks. Primarily the task of the Baghdogra Mig-21s, such aircraft presence over the Bhutanese and Sikkim skies had proven unnecessary in the air defence role in the last few days. That was due mostly to the no-show of CAF fighters in support of their ground forces in the Chumbi valley who were taking a beating from the might of the attacking Divisions of the XXXIII Corps. The CAF had been mostly content with securing the skies over southern Tibet and Lhasa with S-300 systems, and that in turn had allowed the IAF to place only a few Bison interceptors and a handful of Mirages in the air-defence role alongside the lower capability ERJ-145 AEW Systems. Most of the Indian air presence over the Chumbi valley had been Hashimara Mig-27s and Bisons in ground attack role and CAS operations in support of Operation Chimera. Most of the other Indian fighters were deployed to the east or in the Laddakh sector where the CAF was throwing everything except the kitchen sink against the Indian Air Force bases, airstrips and fighters.
As a result of this overall situation, when the CJ-10 GLCMs had been detected by the AEW, Baghdogra had been caught with its pants down. Most of its Bisons were returning from CAS sorties or being equipped for the same. There were even a bunch of lumbering transports in the crowded skies above the region. Now the AEW MC was caught in a tough situation. If he let his two Mirages expend all of their missiles against the GLCMs and let the remainder of the missiles be taken care of by the Siliguri Akash battery, it would leave the Bhutanese airspace undefended for a short while before the Baghdogra Mig-21s could launch from that airbase and take position. Most of the large numbers of Mig-27s flying back and forth between Bhutan, Chumbi Valley, Sikkim and Hashimara were un-optimized for air combat and loaded for bear with ground attack munitions.
If on the other hand, the MC let the Mirages stay back on their original mission, he could cover the Bhutanese airspace but the Akash Battey might not be able to intercept all of the inbound missiles. If that happened, and in worst case scenario, Baghdogra took a hit on the runway, crippling air ops from there, the gap created in the air defences would be even larger, not to mention affecting the overall supply ops for General Potgam’s IMTRAT-COM in Bhutan. Valid choices with high stakes; the MC pressed the intercom mouthpiece button and patched through to the two Mirage pilots as he peered over the shoulder of the radar systems controller on board the aircraft...
“Sharpshooter-One, you are cleared to engage the inbounds. Take them out!”
“Roger, Observer-Actual. Sharpshooter is rolling in. Out!” the response came over the R/T.
By now the two Mirage pilots had already punched afterburner and were recovering their kinetic energy even as the engine glow of the seven turbojets of the CJ-10s were scattered on the horizon in front of them, streaked south and just about to clear the Himalayas and enter the plains of India.
Not on my account...the flight leader thought as he depressed the release and felt the jerk as another Astra missile fell off the pylon and fired its rocket motor and appeared from underneath the HUD, its exhaust quickly converting into white trails which spread over the cockpit glass of the Mirage a second later and continued moving up, indicating the missile gaining slight altitude advantage over the targets as well as the launch platforms, which were in the same azimuth plane. The second mirage did the same a second later. A few seconds later the familiar bleep-bleep noise in the cockpit turned to a undertone screech indicating that the missile had acquired and about to splash the target. A small, spherical, orange-yellow cloud developed a split-second later above the plains of Assam...
“Splash-One! Splash-Two” the pilot said over the comms to indicate the near simultaneous explosion of another missile from the wingman.
“Observer, we are out of arrows! I repeat: Sharpshooter Flight is empty! Five inbounds still moving to target, and we are running on fumes! Where’s the nearest gas station?” Sharpshooter-One said, immediately doing the calculation on fuel expenditure that would be required versus what was available, even as the two aircraft pulled out of afterburners and closed formation watching the remaining five missiles head southwest towards Baghdogra...
On board the ERJ-145, the MC had lowered his comms mouthpiece and turned to his left to face the screen of the operations officer:
“Just tell me we have a tanker in the air!”
“Roger that! Barielly outbound MARS bird is approaching AO. Sharpshooter is on priority.”
“Good! Direct Sharpshooter to that bird for immediate refuelling!” he then turned to the right again: “Inform Siliguri Tactical Air Centre that we have five leakers inbound on their ADGES combat systems and that Sharpshooter Flight has disengaged! The skies are clear! Tell them to take their shots whenever they are ready!”
The MC then pulled his comms mouthpiece back up and depressed the voice-activate button: “Sharpshooter, this is Observer-Actual. Get out of that airspace behind the inbounds. Siliguri ADGES is painting the skies now. Let them take care of it. Get out of their way, now!”
“Roger that! Observer, this is Sharpshooter-One and –Two bugging out and heading to Sierra-Two-Bravo for refuelling! Out!”
Last edited by vivek_ahuja
on 06 Jan 2011 23:27, edited 3 times in total.