By Ed Benjamin
Fighter pilot Harry Miles finds himself facing overwhelming odds flying his F-15 fighter against multiple Iranian jets (planes superior to Harry’s) at 40,000 feet. Missiles have shot his wing man down. Harry must decide to stay and fight or retreat. If Harry stays; will he survive? If he survives; what additional battles will he face? Will he experience victory or defeat? Afterward, will his life be worth living?
Many aviation experts had judged the Su-27 Flanker aircraft as superior to the F-15 in many respects. The Flanker is a twin-engine aircraft with a blended wing and fuselage, and twin tail fins. The Flanker was capable of engaging in an aerial dogfight at supersonic speed. It carried radar-guided air-to-air missiles and an internally mounted 30-millimeter caliber machine gun similar to the F-15 internally mounted 20-millimeter gun.
Of course, everything is relative. Harry had the benefit of training under Bulldog who had insisted that all his pilots spend hours upon hours in the simulators against profiles that matched the attack profiles of all known opponents. Harry had also benefited from the intelligence briefings in Saudi Arabia when it was known the Flankers might be in the theater of operations. These briefings caused him to remember and review the lessons learned from many hours of study.
If he thought about it in this manner, this confrontation would be a classic battle of skill versus physics. Harry instinctively knew he would need to take advantage of the superior range of his air-to-air missile load and then, if necessary, use every trick he had learned if this turned into a close air battle.
Harry's weapons load consisted of 4 AMRAAM A-120 missiles and 4 AIM-9X heat-seeking missiles, also known as the “Sidewinders.
Harry was trying to calculate when he might be in Sidewinder range when missile warning tones filled his ear. He looked down at his cockpit display and saw 3 air-to-air missiles headed his way. Both of the remaining Flankers had gotten within launch range.
Harry jammed his stick forward and pulled his airplane down and to the right as he began evasive maneuvers to get away from the danger. He managed to evade two of them but he didn't know if he was going to lose the third.
He had pushed the stick forward again and started to climb but it didn't seem to do any good. His throat constricted and tightened. Harry had tunnel vision and things were going black. It felt like his consciousness was jammed into a cone with the exterior sides at 45 degrees angles and some giant force was pushing the sides together closing the gap of consciousness. It seemed there were these two giant hands pushing at the edges of his mind pinching it and closing it. The fear crept in. His world spun. Normally, he could handle the g-forces that all the F-15 pilots dealt with on a daily basis. Lack of oxygen caused everything to turn gray.
Damn. Everything's spinning. Everything is going black. Did I get hit?
His body jerked in a convulsive spasm and when he did so, his hands pulled back on the throttle. With the lack of thrust, his plane hit that combination of forces that all pilots dreaded. His airplane began to spin and gyrate in a 360-degree circle on a horizontal axis while careening down as gravity worked its inexorable force. Known as a "flat spin," most pilots considered it the kiss of death. The textbook answer requires the pilot to eject as soon as possible for there was no recovery. this was a cardinal rule in military aviation.
Harry didn't consider ejecting. He wasn't even aware his plane had gone into the "flat spin." Lack of oxygen had caused Harry to black out.
By then word of multiple air victories had filtered to Harry’s squadron area. Some bottles of champagne mysteriously appeared and his squadron mates were waiting in the squadron area to congratulate him for his three "kills" by dousing him with champagne. Harry never returned to the squadron. . . . They drank the champagne in a toast to Harry's "kills." They saw no sense in letting good champagne go to waste.