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Six (Two) Days in a Mirage

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First off this post is a story, but there's a story behind the story, so the actual story is waaaay down below and is called "Six Two Days in a Mirage", but the story behind it comes first so you have to put up with a long ramble before you get to the meat of the thing. Then again you could always skip this whole first part but then that means...well actually it doesn't mean a damn thing, so if you want to be lazy feel free to skip down to where the color-y bits are. :P

Well my DSL got cancelled mysteriously, no one including the phone company can figure that one out, so I've been stuck on dialup for the past week now. So what to do? Can't fly anything online, can't do much of anything online, so that just leaves offline persuits to relieve the boredom. Well that and shovelling snow...I hate snow. So I wanted something warm, ya know a vacation, but since I'm broke I had to take a virtual vacation. In my pining for some virtual sunshine to relive my real world cold (from the weather) and bitterness (from the fact I can't get cable until next weekend at the earliest) I decided to play some games. I did some Hearts of Iron Doomsday for a while, but killing off counters isn't as fun as blowing the crap out of something in 3D. So that meant I needed to fly something offline.

Since playing Il-2/PF offline is about as exciting (and possibly suicide inducing) as listening to the book on tape of the Illiad (in it's entirety) as read by Stephen Hawking (in real time) that was right out. I have Allied Force and gave that a couple of practice spins but honestly, dropping bombs on Serbs; while very theraputic, is so very 1995 and fighting the North Koreans just wasn't doing it for me. I don't know why, maybe I just can't get too excited about bombing a guy that will forevermore be a singing marionette to me (thank you Team America) so while I'll definately be practicing my Allied Force sometime down the road since the campaigns truly are marvels, it just wasn't tripping my trigger. That left me Wings Over Vietnam, which honestly hasn't been over Vietnam for me in a long while.

I have the Korean Air War mod for it, but that wasn't really doing it for me either, again I blame Team America. So I decided to see what mods were out that may do it for me, in a grinny happy way. Now I've ranted a few times recently about how I'm fairly annoyed at the mod community for SF/WoV/WoE and their recent shenanigans over modding, who owns what, etc. but I decided that even I can be wrong from time to time so decided to go in with an open (-ish) mind and see if there was anything neat and nifty and new that wasn't subject to the Mod Gestapo Lockdown of 2007. And lo and behold there it was...the Arab-Israeli Wars mod was updated along with the new Middle East map. That's the ticket!

So I decided to download it and all the stuff I needed to get it up and running. Which due to the fact that I'm on dialup took me...oh about 2 freakin' days! On one hand I was seeing red...no I was beyond seeing red, I was seeing somewhere around a megenta-ish shade when I realised that downloading say a Mirage IIICJ (20odd megs) would take maybe a minute or two on my DSL was taking over an hour on my dialup. But I got over that through the cunning use of my laundry bag as a convenient punchingbag. On the other hand having to wait an hour or sometimes more for the next plane to download meant I actually went and tried all of them out as I got them in Single Missions and the like, which gave me an appriciation of what they could all do and narrowed my choices down for my first Full Real, Dead is Dead, Arab-Israeli throwdown. So I see it as a left-handed bonus actually.

There is a lot to download, but honestly I probably could have had it all done in under a couple hours on DSL so if the Arab-Israeli Wars sounds keen to you, and you have any of the Third Wire jet products (SF/WoV/WoE) don't let that stop you from going out and grabbing it. I mean if I can do it on dial-up with my impatience induced rage fits, then anyone can. The key though is getting the Arab-Israeli War and the upgrade for it first, since the read me tells you everything else you need to get, as well as the optional stuff. I got it all, because I'm a masochist. Hell I even looked for more stuff like a groovy Israeli military music pack for SF which actually added a lot to the campaign. Usually the first thing I do in a sim is turn the music off, it's usually cheesy and annoying, but with that pack in it actually made me want to fly more. Weird huh?

Anyhow that's the end of the backstory on why I went and did what I did. Here's the real story...

"Six Two Days in a Mirage"

A Combat Diary

June 5th, 1967

Tel Nof Airbase, Negev, Israel

I just recieved my assignment as a Sagam (Junior Lt.) to the 119 Tayeset "Ha'Atalef" (119 "The Bat" Squadron) flying Shahaks (our name for the Mirage IIICJ fighter) a few weeks ago, went through familiarization training in the type and then basic squadron training and all of a sudden we were told to prepare for combat operations. This was a bit unsettling since I'd only had about 8 hours in type with the aircraft. On the other hand that was about as many as the RAF replacement pilots in the Battle of Britain had and they didn't do so poorly, but still...

The situation was not looking so good. Nasser in Egypt and Assad in Syria appear to be colluding to put pressure on Israel again. The Egpytians had recently closed the Suez to Israeli shipping which caused some clashes along the canal, including some actual air to air clashes between my new squadronmates and Egyptian aircraft. While in the east the Syrians had begun a waterworks project that would divert off many of the streams that feed into the Jordan, that project could cut much of the needed irrigation water away from Israel. That simmering situation had also produced some respose from the IAF, including a few airstrikes against the damming project. Things got more serious when Syrians started firing on Israeli farmers from the Golan. More recently it appeared that the Syrians and Egyptians were massing troops for an attack, although they seem to have backed off slightly under pressure from either their Soviet backers to a degree so while it doesn't appear an invasion is imminent, it is still a possibility. Jordan is the wild card, with the internal protests and downright riots against King Hussein's "laxness" towards Israel on one hand possibly pressuring him to join in the pan-Arab attack when it comes on one hand, and Jordan's backer the United States urging restraint on the other. The Jordanians signed a pact with Egypt and Syria a week ago but their resolve to fight is something we can't be sure of if war does come about.

Appearently that war is coming sooner than any of us had thought, in fact today. And we're starting it...

In the pre-dawn briefing we were informed that the Defense Minister had authorized a preemptive attack against the Egyptians and Syrians, Dyan believes that if we don't act now the Arabs will attack sometime soon anyhow and it's better to get in the first blow while the enemy isn't completely prepared. To do this the IAF would open the war with concentrated airstrikes against Egyptian airbases. Several waves of attack are planned and if the Syrians or Jordanians appear to be entering the war then we were to be prepared to strike against their airbases as well on following strikes today. The operation is called Mivtza Moked (Operation Focus) and will launch early this morning with a time on target for our mission of 0645 local (Egyptian) time.

When they pulled back the cover over the mapboard you could feel the tension and excitement build, we were going deep into Egypt. Not just into the Sinai but to the Nile itself. My package of 4 Mirages was tasked to fly as fighter escort for a 12 ship Meteor fighter-bomber flight from 110 Squadron that was to attack the Egyptian airbase at El-Minya. El-Minya is the Egyptian Air Force's Weapons and Advanced Combat Flight training base, and is about halfway between Cairo and Luxor along the west bank of the Nile. Because of the types of units based there it was stressed that surprise was essential, if significant numbers of enemy MiG-19s and -21s got airborne they would rip apart the Meteor formation. One wise-guy in the briefing even commented that he didn't even know we still flew the Meteor. But I knew 110 Squadron did since I'd done my jet transition training with them, yes things were so desperate that we were sending a plane that was relegated to being an advanced trainer as a strike aircraft, deep into Egypt no less.

When I commented on that the briefing officer told us that Israel possessed 196 jet combat aircraft and that 184 of them would be participating in the strikes. Only 12 of our combat jets were to be held back to defend against enemy counterattacks, this is risky, but hopefully with surprise on our side we can destroy most of the Egyptian Airforce on the ground and keep those 12 pilots over Israel bored out of their skulls. But that meant that everything we had that could carry a bomb, missile or gun was going up, even the old Meteors.

Seren (Capt.) Melinik was our flight leader and the ranking pilot on our part of the mission. Our other Mirages were assigned to different missions with a flight being tasked to be 1/3 of the total CAP over Israel during the strikes. Aside from the Seren all of the rest of us were newer pilots and all Segams (Jr. Lts.) on our first combat mission. Seren Melinik had done several combat missions at the tail end of the Suez Crisis, had particiliapted in some combat missions in punitive strikes against the Syrians in the 10 years since, and was a veteran with 3 kills to his credit. The rest of us hadn't fired, or had fired at us, a shot in anger. We knew that was all going to change and there was a strange mix of bravado and barely concealed anxiety as we suited up and went out to our waiting fighters.

Now, the Mirage IIICJ is considered by us to be the best fighter in the IAF inventory...perhaps we're a little biased but it is an excellent plane. For this mission we were carrying 2 1600 gallon droptanks along with 3 Shafrir-1 (Python-1) infared guided air-to-air missiles. Even though we were each carrying 3 "heaters" we made sure that our crew chiefs had hand selected each round that went in our cannon magazines. Gun kills are the IAF way and none of us were sure about how the AAMs would perform since they'd only been in the inventory for 4 years and had seen almost no warshots, as I said guns are the IAF way and most of the kills (including all of Sagam Melinik's prior kills) had been with trusty gunfire.

We took off in the pre-dawn darkness as the air raid sirens blared across Israel to warn people that war had come. I slid my plane into position and rechecked my map as we flew out over the Mediterranean to the southwest, I wasn't thrilled with out flight plan, our insertion looked simple enough, we were avoiding Cairo completely, but the exfiltrarion route took us too close to the southern end of the Suez Canal where it met the Red Sea, at least in my opinion.

The radio was a constant chatter of airplanes departing, forming up, and calling out their positions. All of the IAF was in the air, and the vast bulk of it headed soutwest towards Egypt with deadly intent. We crossed into Egyptian airspace near their airbase at Abu Suwayr which was being thoroughly pounded by IAF Mysteres from 116 Squadron. The base was a cloud of smoke as we flew past it. The same scene was being repeated all over Egypt at the moment, or so we hoped at least. We didn't meet up with the Meteors from 110 Squadron until we were south of Beni Suef and not all that far from their target at El-Minya, perhaps 10 minutes out.

Just as the 110 Squadron commander was saying over the radio that they were five minutes from target one of his pilots yelled over the radio,"Enemy Aircraft approaching!" Our Mirages all turned on our radar, which until now had been off to assist in avoiding detection by the enemy, and we spotted several blips, perhaps 10 miles to our 3 o'clock on an intercept course with the Meteors. Until this point we'd been flying at no more than 2,000 feet since we'd gone feet dry over Egypt (again to help avoid detection) but 2,000 feet isn't where you want to be when you have MiGs incoming at high speed and from 12,000 feet. We went into a full afterburner climb, dropping our external tanks to lighten our weight (and to get what ammounted to a bomb off our bellies) and proceeded to engage the enemy fighters.

Our primary mission was escort and protection, the Meteors had to get through, but all of us wanted to get a kill so that may have made us a little more likely to push a bad situation. My wingman Sagam David Sharon and I dove down on a formation of MiG-19s that were trying to get into a firing position against the Meteors. Since we wanted to eliminate the threat to the Meteors as quickly as possible we didn't do any fancy combat maneuvering at this point, only enough to get the seeker heads on our Pythons to growl in a lock and fire them. The enemy MiGs didn't have missiles so they had a choice, turn back from their attack to deal with our Mirages or continue on to try to get the Meteors. They continued on after the Meteors, probably figuring that even if they defeated us they'd be out of luck if they didn't have an airbase left to land at after the fighter-bombers worked it over. So the MiGs kept on their intercept course, going to afterburner to try to deal with the Meteors before we could destroy them.

Since they were on burner it should have made our decision to fire from a further range with missiles all the better, since the missiles would have a hotter heat source to lock on to. Sure enough as soon as I was within firing range of the enemy Farmers my Python started growling so I launched one...which promptly locked onto the sun, which unfortunately didn't do anything to discourage the MiGs. The next Python was growling in my ear so I fired it again at the same MiG which I'd locked up on my radar as well. I wasn't sure if the Farmer (MiG-19S) had a Radar Warning Receiver or not, but if it did then having it chattering at him could affect his nerve I guessed. I pushed the button and sent the second Python towards the MiG and...it appearently locked onto a particuliarly warm sand dune, diving groundwards and exploding harmlessly. My wingman fired his first Python and I watched it track true and destroy a MiG, smudging it from the sky in an oily black puff. Allright, so it wasn't the Python-1, it was me, or perhaps the enemy MiG. I broke radar lock and locked onto the MiG I'd previously wasted two missiles on's wingman, maybe the leader was just bad luck for infared missiles? Or so I hoped. When the missile growled in my ear I launched it...and it followed its brother going after that particuliarly nasty sand dune. Since I'd had no joy with the missiles I switched over to guns, which was the way I preferred it anyhow truth to be told.

By this point the MiGs were almost in firing range of the Meteors. They hadn't done any radical maneuvers since the first Python missed them completely. Perhaps they assumed that we'd fire our missiles and then go home when they didn't work. Well we weren't flying some US plane that didn't carry a gun, we had our 30mm cannon and we weren't afraid to use them.

There were 3 Farmers pressing in to attack the Meteors which were almost at their release point, by this point the sky was full of flak from the airbase. My wingman and I were at aproximately .2-3 of a mile when we engaged. My first burst hit the "Lucky Farmer's" wingman and shredded off his port wing, the plane immediately started to spin down towards the earth. My first kill! As soon as this transpired the MiGs forgot all about the Meteors, perhaps they were trusting in some form of advanced Soviet anti-missile technology, or Allah, or pure luck to save them from our Python attack, and it had worked, but as soon as they saw tracers and the result of 30mm rounds hitting a MiG they knew that it was for real now. The two remaining MiGs rolled and started doing violent combat maneuvers, in fact they appeared to be doing that old American WWII trick of the Thatch Weave, but we'd seen it before and our Mirages didn't have to play that game since we could easilly climb up and then roll down onto them. Which we proceeded to do. I don't know who scored next, me or my wingman, but within the space of 20 seconds all of the Famers were destroyed. Both of us having gotten our second kills, Sharon with a Python and his gun, and myself with two solid gun kills.

The other two Mirages, Capt. Melinik and Sagam Sagee had curved around to shepherd the Meteors and hadn't as yet fired a shot. On one hand I was proud that the flight leader trusted me and my wingman to deal with the Farmers ourselves, on the other hand I was worried about whatever was worrying him since he'd taken a catbird seat at about 19,000 feet during our short dogfight almost as if he was expecting something else to happen. And of course it did.

As my wingman and I were climbing to rejoin the other two Mirages a shot came over the radio for us to break left, we had enemy aircraft coming in. I started to break and as I whipped my nose around I saw enemy tracerfire going through the space where I'd just been! That was a close call and rattled me for a second, my wingman didn't have a chance to be rattled as his plane disintegrated under the gunfire from the enemy attackers. As I rolled back right to engage I saw the distinct delta wing shapes, they were MiG-21s, Egypt's best fighter and since we were attacking their Advanced Weapons Training School I knew we could possibly be in big trouble. Egypt's best fighter, being flown by possibly its best pilots.

At this point the Meteors had hit the airbase hard, it was a smoking ruin off to my left as I began to fight for my life against the enemy MiGs, of which there were 3. Since they came from the west I could only assume they were a training flight, probably 2 student pilots (which still would be very good since advanced training of the sort undertaken here would only be offered to the best pilots from the line squadrons) and an instructor pilot who would be even better. We entered a furious dogfight, 3 MiG-21s against 3 Mirage IIIs, with everyone on both sides knowing it was kill or be killed, there'd be no withdrawl from this fight.

Capt. Melinik scored first, a gun kill on the left trailing MiG while I rolled in on the leader. This probably was the instructor pilot because the dogfight seemed to last for hours (although later I determined from my gun cam footage it all lasted under 2 minutes) with moves and counter moves on both sides, guns being fired at fleeting images in crosshairs and prayers probably going up on both sides as the tide swung back and forth. But in the end I prevailed and rolled back to assist my flight leader. By then he had shot down the other MiG as well and was coming in to cover me if I'd needed it. Thankfully neither of us needed the assistance and we all turned our Mirages back to the northeast while dropping down to low level again for our exit out of Egypt.

As we flew we went over what had gone right and what had gone wrong. The enemy MiG-21 attack was obviously the low point of the mission for us, the loss of my wingman saddened us all, especially since he'd been so joyful on the radio after his second kill only to die moments later by an attack that he barely had time to register. We were also concerned that the Egytians had not only fired AAA at us in the vicinity of the airbase, but also several SAM missiles were fired. Thankfully their missiles seemed to suffer from problems as much as our Pythons had (only my wingman's single Python shot had hit any enemy aircraft out of the total of 7 fired by the flight as a whole) but the mere fact that they were there was disconcerting. I had a nagging worrysome thought about the SAMs and something else I couldn't quite bring myself to recall. But I pushed it from my mind, we were getting closer to the Red Sea by the second, and every mile was a mile closer to home.

My worrysome thought that I couldn't pin down came back to me in full reality and full horror when we crossed over the coast into the northen Red Sea. I should have remembered how much the flight plan had bothered me in the briefing, and I should have asked that it be changed, but who was I? Just very low man on the ladder. As we were over the midpoint of the extreme northern tip of the Red Sea I saw the Suez Canal mouth to my left, that bothered me enough that I was about to suggest we change course when the terrible happened. "SAM launch! SAM launch!" was yelled repeatedly over the radio. All of us slammed our throttles into afterburner and dove for the coastline below us. I saw at least 4 smoke trails from Egyptian SAMs in the air as I dove, then watched in horror as one of them intersected with the lead Mirage which started to tumble towards the sea. There were only two of us left, myself and Sagee, and we were screaming hellbent for leather towards the highlands just ahead in the Sinai to try to mask us from any remaining SAM radars. We didn't see any chute, we didn't have time to look carefully.

The rest of the flight was a dreary one. No radio chatter between Sagee and myself, no banter, nothing but the sounds of our engines and the occasional call to air control from another flight until we touched down at Tel Nof. I climed out of my Mirage, all my previous joy over our air to air success forgotten for the moment by the realization that half our flight had been lost. Along with our most experienced pilot. Even more sobering was the fact that if the rest of the IAF had taken such a loss rate then at best we had, at best, six days to win this war. Six Days.

We'd trained in the IAF to do quick turnarounds of our jet fighters. In other air forces it could take an hour or more to prepare a fighter for another combat mission. But the IAF had trained to be able to turnaround a fighter in seven and a half minutes. I was praying that we'd not have to do that, I needed time to sort through what had happened today. Today? Hell this morning, it wasn't yet noon. All of that action, both the highs and the lows had taken place in the space of a mere hour and a half. Thankfully Sagee and myself were told to stand down for the time being, we'd fly again today certainly, but not in less than 10 minutes.

As we sat in the debriefing shack and went over the mission I made sure that the squadron commander, Rav Seren (Major) Gilad knew about the unforseen SAM threat, as well as the actions of our lost comerades. Capt. Melinik had gotten 2 MiG-21s, combined with his 4 prior kills to today that made him an ace. Unfortunately he wasn't here to see it. I'll also have to write a letter to my wingman's brother to tell him of his loss, unfortunately I'm not sure where the elder Sharon is at the moment, probably down in Sinai with a tank brigade somewhere...

We stood down and were changing out of our flight gear, when one of the other pilots ran in excitedly. Capt. Melinik had ejected and been recovered! Navy light attack boats were operating off the southern tip of the Sinai in an operation to capture Sharm El-Sheikh and had seen the SAM attack on our flight, and seen the Captain's chute when he ejected. They moved in and rescued him, he was slightly wounded from fragments of the SAM but would live, in fact they were saying he could be ready to fly again in a day or two. This was most welcome news and somewhat bouyed our spirits.

We went to the briefing room again, learning that the other attacks had not taken the serious losses ours had. This was good news at least, even better was the news that the 10th Armored Brigade had taken Gaza City and was preparing to move further into the Sinai. Tempering this was the news that the Jordanians had appearently decided which way to jump. So since they jumped against us, we'll have to go smack them down as well.

That is where my next mission will be, I'll be flying in the 3rd wave of the day on a fighter sweep over Jordan. I hope lunch is good, my appetite decided to suddenly come back. And yet I can't help shake the thought that if our losses stay at this level, six days to win, that's all the margin we have. At least the margin for The Bats.

(to be continued)


* I intended to fly the campaign and post my "AAR" after each mission, but with my net being funky I just couldn't get on to do it after the first mission and...well I was having a blast do I did the next mission, and then the next mission, and then...well you see what I mean. That's also why it's not Six Days in a Mirage like I'd originally intended to call it, my campaign is over after 2 days. Did I die? Did we win? Did we just run out of airplanes? Did I get into a tragic car accident after Capt. Melinik's return to duty party? Well...you'll just have to wait and find out. ;)

* The Six Days War did really start out with most of the IAF attacking Egyptian airfields, in that the campaign for the Six Days War that comes with the Arab-Israeli Wars pack is right on the money. All of the mission info I wrote about really happened. The same for the results and the kills each pilot made and how. The WoV campaign engine really lets you get a feel for how everything is going down. You can check the status of other friendly squadrons, your squadron's plane and weapon supply, how many rounds were fired at which time in a mission, etc. I like that. Once again the offline experience that the Third Wire jet sims give is very good, the only thing that would make it leaps and bounds better is if it ran continuously like the Falcon 4.0 ones do, but I can deal with an "offscreen" standown time between missions since the campaign is so good. I didn't change any of the pilot assignments or number of planes, etc. my wingman really was called David Sharon, so I decided to make him related to famousness for story purposes but everything you see me report, really happened that way.

* I'm flying the campaign realtime, with dead is dead. No reflies. Since the map seems to me to be 1:1 scale the missions really do take as long to fly as they did in reality. On the bright side Israel and its enemies were well within reasonable range to one another, and on afterburner you can get to Tel Aviv from Damascus (or vice versa) for example in a very short period of time.

* You guys know I don't have much nice to say about the French and all their works...but the Mirage III is a sweet airplane. That was the one I most wanted to fly from my trial flights before I started any campaign. Maybe later I'll do XX Days in a Mystere or something. ;)

* If anyone actually read all this, considering it's long as hell and in a part of the forum not commonly looked at...well you get a cookie and my thanks. :popcornsmilie:

* The Shafrir-1 missile was used quite a bit in the Six Days War. The IAF was disappointed in the results the missile had in the war and it was quickly fixed to become the Shafrir-2 (Python-2) which did so well in the Yom Kippur War of '73. My experiences in this mission (and in the whole of the campaign that I flew as you'll see) pretty much back that up. Guns were far more effective for me than the missile was.

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