Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 5
Fiery Skies

Chapter Five: Fiery Skies


Red Beach, Rivymiyitevko

September 30, 2008 1539 Rivymiyitevko time (1139 Krakozhian time)


Although the 117th Platoon of the 50th Motor Rifle Division landed on Rivymiyitevko relatively uncontested, the same couldn't be said for the 66th Motor Rifles. Despite being bombarded by cruise missiles, almost two hundred Krakozhian soldiers were still killed when the RIM jumped out of their caves and mounted a surprise attack. Red Beach had become a fitting name for the place. But now, the carnage of the initial landings had been washed away, and the beach was as pristine as it had been eons ago, except for the presence of military hardware in the area.


Marshal Dallutev sat in front of a plotting table, watching his strategists move pieces marked with numbers into a map of Rivymiyitevko. "Grisha, tell me, how many troops have we landed on the island?" he asked his aide.


"Well, Comrade Marshal," he replied, "the 66th Motor Rifle Division was responsible for securing this beach; therefore, most of our casualties were from that division. The 199th, 203rd, and 94th Motor Rifle Divisions have already begun unloading their troops and vehicles, and they are in place to assist the 69th Tank Army to overrun the rebel troops surrounding the Renechev Perimeter."


"Well, then, I would like to see our comrades in action."


"I think the ship is about to embark, Comrade Marshal. It shouldn't take long."


Dallutev was sitting inside one of the many command vehicles listed under his name. This time, it was an MT-LB armored personnel carrier specially designed to transport general officers like him. The vehicle was inside a Ropucha-class landing ship, along with a mix of APCs and tanks. The Ropucha had a potent complement of weapons, chief among them multiple rocket launchers. The Marshal felt the ship move, but the ship didn't launch its missiles. The beach was now in Krakozhian hands, and therefore any missiles launched there would probably kill a lot of friendly troops.


The ship lurched and then ground to a halt. Dallutev thought that it had run aground when the bow doors opened, and he could see Red Beach outside. He tapped the shoulder of the sergeant on the wheel and said, "Take us to the operational headquarters of the 50th Motor Rifle Division."


"That's over at White Beach, Marshal," replied the driver. "Are you sure?" The Marshal merely nodded. The driver accelerated the vehicle, catching the MP on traffic duty off guard. Seeing the large white star of a marshal on the sides of the vehicle kept him from reprimanding the driver.


After driving through Highway One, the MT-LB halted in front of a tent in White Beach. Dallutev and his aide got out of the vehicle and entered the tent. While the Marshal watched the men in action, his aide told one of the men, "Comrade Captain, Marshal Dallutev is here for you."


The man stood up, gave a crisp salute, and said, "Captain Andrei Urov of the 50th Motor Rifle Division, Comrade Marshal."


"At ease, Captain. Have there been any recent missions?"


"Yes, Comrade Marshal. We have captured elements of the 217th Artillery Regiment of the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement who were operating the antitank guns that were causing trouble for the 69th Tanks. We took almost a hundred of them at the cost of fifteen of my men. Also, these two minefields—"


"Comrade Captain!" The shout came from outside the tent. A soldier with the epaulets of a senior lieutenant burst through the flap that served as the door of the tent. "One of the Rivymiyitevko officers we captured wants to talk to you. Should I bring him in here?"


"Lev, what did I tell you about interrupting me while I am entertaining a guest?" asked Urov. "All right. I'll talk to him outside. Comrade Marshal, would you like to come along?"


"Certainly, Comrade Captain." As he began to follow Urov, Dallutev's aide quickly followed the Marshal on his way out. "Are you sure, Comrade Marshal?" he asked. "There is a small risk of being attacked."


"Grisha, if the soldiers here had half the brain of those who fought in the Great War of the Republic, they would have already stripped that man clean of his weapons. Besides, the last time I was here—I was just a colonel back then, I believe—I learned that nothing good comes out of a rebel officer's mouth."


The Rivymiyitevko officer was wearing a uniform with a gray camouflage pattern, and he had the stars of a sub-colonel, the Krakozhian equivalent of a lieutenant colonel, on his shoulders. He was holding his hands up as he was escorted at gunpoint towards Captain Urov. The look that the lieutenant gave him told him only one thing: no funny moves.


"You are free to speak," said Urov.


The officer nodded and lowered his arms. "I am Podpolkovnik Yuri Ivanovich Kostelnikov of the Eighth Tank Troops. I have taken command of the 217th Artillery Regiment upon the death of Colonel Tagatin. We were tasked with delaying a Krakozhian offensive against the Renechev Perimeter—"


"Is there any point to this drabble?" asked Dallutev. The Rivymiyitevko officer took the sight of the Marshal as a pleasant surprise. "What I was going to say, Marshal, is that the people of Rivymiyitevko are no longer behind Konstantin Benin. He is only serving his own interests, and the interests of his inner circle. I say this, Marshal Dallutev: communism is returning with great force to Rivymiyitevko."


Somewhere above the Kara Sea

That same time


The Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" was the only propeller-driven aircraft still operated by air forces around the world. As a strategic bomber, it was as cumbersome as its American counterpart, the B-52 Stratofortress. Adding a radar dome on top of the fuselage didn't make it look any better. But it was a good aircraft, good enough that it was still in service after all these years. The Bear-F was the Soviets' first response to the Americans' E-3 Sentry AWACS, but it was soon shelved for maritime and border patrol in favor of the Beriev A-50. During that time, the possibility of using it as a targeting aircraft for radar-guided missiles was approached until the collapse of the Soviet Union, when funding was shifted in favor of commercial goods.


Aviation Private Ivan Chihoski was the radar operator onboard this particular Bear, whose callsign right now was Outpost Three. Technically, he was still training for his aviation qualification, or wings, but actual experience of aerial warfare for him was better than merely studying theory on the ground. And working onboard a Bear was the fulfillment of his dreams. He had been fascinated with them ever since he first saw them as a child.


He saw a group of blips appear on his scope. He knew that a flight of MiG-29s was up in the air right now protecting the Bear, but the blips were too far away to be their guardians. Soon enough, the radioman's console blared and said, "Outpost Three, this is Prutavy Flight. Do you have anything for us right now?"


"Tell them that there looks like a squadron-strength flight headed northbound for Red Beach. They could be planning a strike on the beachhead." The communications officer nodded and relayed the information to Prutavy Flight.


Onboard the lead MiG, the flight leader replied with a curt "Roger," and then passed it on to the others. "Prutavy Flight, split up. Wingmen, stick close to your leaders."


Each MiG-29 in Prutavy Flight was armed with two Gudin Gu-1 "Starscream" cruise missiles, four Gudin Gu-2 "Sunbeam" air-to-air missiles, two AA-8 "Aphid" missiles on wingtip hardpoints, and one centerline fuel tank for added range and loitering time. Their main weapons were the Sunbeams, small air-to-air missiles with a powerful punch. The missile's seventy-pound warhead was specially designed to inflict maximum damage to its target. The Sunbeams had been used to great effect during the Great War of the Republic and the Civil War.


The Starscreams were no weaklings either. Originally designed as a naval anti-ship missile, the Starscream opened up a whole new world of armaments for Krakozhian combat forces. It had been adapted for use as an air-launched cruise missile, a submarine-launched surface-to-air missile, and an antitank rocket. The aerial version of the Starscream retained some of the capabilities of its naval counterpart, in that it kept the target's speed relative to its own in mind, and that it could calculate the target's position on time of impact. This system in turn was helped by the MiG-29's battle computer, which loaded the target's initial coordinates onto the missile. Upon launch, a small television camera mounted on the underside of the missile would turn on and provide updates on the target until impact.


Aviation Lieutenant Yuri Bonk, callsign "Prutavy Three," brought his aircraft right turn, with his wingman following close behind. Suddenly, he heard alarms come to life in his cockpit. "One, this is Three. I'm picking up acquisition radars on my twelve."


"Copy that, Three," replied Prutavy One. "We'll keep watch."


"Roger, One." Then, switching frequencies, he said, "Stick close to me, Four."


"Roger, Three."


Bonk selected his Aphid air-to-air missiles, whose radar-guided seekers immediately blared their acquisition tones. Once he received the lock-on tone, he fired the missiles. "Three, two away!" he shouted. He was soon awarded with two fireballs in front of his fighter.


"Four, two away!" said his wingman. Bonk saw two more fireballs in the sky, and he watched as a parachute ejected out of its burning fighter. "Good shot, Four!" he said.


"Three, Four, this is One," said the flight leader. "The bandits look like a flight of MiG-19s, squadron strength. I am engaging with Sunbeams."


Bonk looked at the television screen above his right knee, whose camera worked in sync with the MiG's infrared search and tracking system, or IRSTS. He could make out the large engine intake that was the nose of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 "Farmer", whose heat signature was partially obscured by the exhaust coming from the back of the aircraft. "Affirmative, One," he said. "They're Farmers, all right."


"They're practically shining on my IRSTS!" said Prutavy Four. "They must be on max afterburner!"


If the MiG-19s were this prominent on the IRSTS, then using the Sunbeam, with its infrared-guided seeker, would be child's play. Bonk switched to his Sunbeams and locked on to another Farmer. It exploded in a brilliant flash of light, just as the pilot ejected out of his fighter.


"Three! Incoming missile, one o'clock!"


Bonk pulled back on his stick hard and ejected a chaff capsule. The canister released a cloud of shredded aluminum foil, which fooled the radar-guided AA-2 missile. Bonk's controls shook hard from the explosion.


"I'll get him for you, Three," said his wingman. Another explosion rocked the sky, and as Yuri brought his aircraft back on course, he saw an enemy fighter behind his wingman. "Four, bandit on your five o'clock!"


"Prutavy Four" was Aviation Private Nikolai Nemenov, a skilled pilot in his own right but limited in rank by his young age. He immediately banked his fighter to the right as soon as he heard Bonk's warning, giving his leader a good lock on the tailing enemy fighter. The Sunbeam detonated underneath the MiG-19's fuselage, tearing the small fighter apart.


"Everybody, hold your fire!" said Prutavy One. "Flight, check in."






"Looks like they're retreating," said Prutavy One. "I have two confirmed kills and one probable kill. Two has one confirmed kill. How did you do, Three?"


"Pretty good, One," replied Bonk. "I have four confirmed kills, and Four has three confirmed kills."


"Everybody form up. We still have at least ninety minutes of fuel left before we hit bingo, so we'll have to loiter around for a while. Something tells me this isn't the last we've heard of those Farmers."


Suddenly, someone shouted, "Outpost Three is under attack!"


Unknown to Prutavy Flight and Outpost Three, a lone MiG-19 had separated from the original flight group and flew on to the unprotected Bear. It was a suicide mission, and the pilot knew that the chances of his getting back to base alive and in one piece were slim to none.


"Base, this is Bull Zero-Zero," he said. "I have eyes on the target. Requesting permission to engage."


"Roger, Bull Zero-Zero. Permission to engage granted."


"Roger that, Base." The pilot then selected his missiles, which were two old AA-2 "Atoll" air-to-air missiles, obsolescent like the MiG he was flying. His heads-up display was also a basic one, with only vital information like airspeed and altitude on it, along with a simple pair of crosshairs in the middle. These immediately locked onto the belly of the Tu-95. The pilot didn't waste any more time. He fired his missiles.


"Pilot, missiles have been launched!" shouted Chihoski. "We have a bandit on our tail!"


"DSO, countermeasures, and now!" The pilot banked his aircraft to the right in an effort to avoid the missiles. The first missile went straight for the chaff cloud released by the Bear, but the second one exploded near the outside starboard engine.


"Engine Four is hit!" shouted the copilot. "Gauges are hitting red, pilot. I think it's on fire!"


"Shut it down, extinguish the fire, and feather the propeller!"


The copilot moved the lever for Engine Four to the IDLE position, pressed the corresponding fire switches, and then lowered the lever to FEATHER.





"Where's the bandit?"


"He's disappeared from the scope—Shit! He's right in front of us!"


The Bear shook as what sounded like rivets popping went through the aircraft. It was actually the MiG-19 firing its thirty-millimeter gun at it, and it soon struck the Bear's number-two engine.


"Engine Two is hit!" shouted the copilot.


"Well, what are you doing? You know what to do!" shouted the pilot.


"We're losing hydraulic fluid on our primary, auxiliary, and emergency systems!" said the flight engineer.


"Govno!" The pilot moved his control yoke, checking the control surfaces of his aircraft. Noticing the sluggish responses, he said, "Everybody get out! I'll keep her flying for as long as I can!"


"We're leaking fuel, pilot," said the copilot. "I don't know how long you'll be able to keep her flying—"


Suddenly, another salvo of rounds from the MiG-19 went through the Bear, now striking the fuselage itself. The pilot recoiled in shock, but he still managed to keep his aircraft flying. "Is everybody okay?" he asked as soon as the attack ended.


"I'm fine, pilot," replied Chihoski, "but I think we've lost our radar."


"Damn, damn, damn! Igor? Pavel? Are you okay?"


"I don't think they are, pilot," said Chihoski.


The pilot turned around to find a gaping hole in what had been his copilot's chest. Another look back and he saw the flight engineer's head lying on his console, staring at his decapitated body.


"Get out, Chihoski! Get out while you still can!"


"No, Comrade Captain!"


"That's an order, Aviation Private! Get out now!"


Chihoski stared at the pilot in shock. The pilot had never shouted at him like that ever since he stepped onboard the aircraft. Reluctantly, he took his parachute, headed for the ejection chute, and jumped out.


It was the first time he had seen the Bear while in flight outside the safety of the aircraft. Even with two of its engines smoking from damage, it was still a beautiful sight for him to behold. It was mystical, almost surreal. And then, he was brought back to reality by his parachute, whose orange canvas sail opened up and slowed down his descent.


"Base, this is Bull Zero-Zero," said the pilot of the MiG-19. "I have neutralized the target, and I am turning back to base." He would love to do another strafing run on the Bear, but his guns had jammed after firing only two hundred rounds.


Suddenly, his threat-warning system sounded an alarm. The pilot noticed the thin white trail of an air-to-air missile headed right for him. He reached for a button labeled EJECT and pressed it.


"Bandit down," said Yuri Bonk. He had fired the Sunbeam missile that had brought down the MiG-19 that attacked the Tu-95. But he couldn't fire the missile in time to stop the attack, and the downing of Outpost Three couldn't have come at a more inopportune time.


Krakozhian Armed Forces Temporary Military Command Center, Yerotsk

1717 Rivymiyitevko time (1317 Krakozhian time)


"Thank you, Comrade Admiral. I will notify him immediately."


General Sergey Mikhailovich Drulyenko, commander and chief of staff of the Krakozhian Air Force, looked at his aide and asked, "What happened?"


"Admiral Domovich called, Comrade General," replied his aide. "One of his ships had picked up the survivors of the attack on our Bear. Their names are Aviation Captain Mehalek, and Aviation Privates Chihoski and Fedorova. I'm sorry, but that's all that I know right now."


Drulyenko took a deep breath. "Why were there no fighters escorting our Bear?" he asked.


"They did have an escort, but they had to break off and engage a squadron of enemy fighters headed for Red Beach."


"I think we've learned something about Rivymiyitevko today, my young comrade," said Drulyenko. "Rivymiyitevko is as committed to this war as we are."


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