Tweet of the Day: On The Nose Dialogue
At 22,000 ft, 10 minutes Northwest of Beograd, Republika Srbija, 5 October, 04:11hrs +1 GMT
Lieutenant Colonel Grigory Anisimov checked his watch, nine minutes fifty-seven seconds to target. So far the old girl had held together well, in spite of the constant missions, scrambles and long hours under alert. Russia had committed fifteen Tu-22M to the war. Due to the situation in the Ukraine, the bombers made their way down from Engels air force base to the Black Sea and then through Romanian air space to the base at Pápa in Hungary. The base had changed dramatically from its Cold War days. NATO had remodeled and rebuilt it to serve as a center for heavy air transports. Anisimov and his men certainly welcomed the improved accommodations. Eastern European bases were infamous even among Soviet pilots for their lack of basic facilities. Not only was everything up to NATO standards, but the tea was excellent.
Seven minutes and fifty seconds to target.
Lieutenant Vetrov ran another check of the systems. As the planes weapons officer, it was his responsibility to drop the war load on time and on target. Not only that, the other two bombers in the formation would drop on his command. Vetrov was the serious type, his head always full of numbers and specs. The colonel once heard another member of the squadron call him an otaku, a Japanese word for nerd. After that, the more Vetrov protested, the more they others call him that during their downtime, of which there was very little. The Tupolev’s crews earned the nickname of the “Balkan Firemen” for their ability to respond to request all through out the former Yugoslavia. Where ever the enemy concentrated their forces or made a major push a Tu-22M would be over the heads, dropping dozens of bombs. The missions were not long, due to the distances involved and the speed of the bomber, but in the last months they launched an average of three sorties a day and sometimes managed to pull at least five in a twenty-four span. When not in the air, the pilots were on alert, ready to scramble to put out the latest fire. They even ran out of Russian made bombs and had to switch to German built ones. At least the Hungarians warmed up to them after they stopped several enemy probes into the Hungarian border.
Three minutes to target.
Multiple flashes lit up the sky in front of the formation. The enemy didn’t posses any sophisticated missile systems, even their cannon shells lacked proximity fuses, but they had big guns that could reach over twenty thousand feet, and lots of them. It took them awhile to find a way to detect an incoming bomber raid, let alone deploy weapons that could reach their altitude, but somehow they found a way. No planes had been lost so far, the fire was impressive but inaccurate. But even the bombers vaunted speed was not enough to spare it from damage. Every single one of them came back with dozens of holes and streaks from shrapnel impacts. Not enough to bring the big birds down, but enough to put then out of commission for awhile. Anisimov knew that eventually the systems would fail or the enemy would score a lucky hit. He prayed to St. Peter that his beloved bird was no the one to suffer that fate.
“One minute warning,” said Vetrov over the intercom.
Bright firework like explosions lit up the sky. The enemy fired large rockets filled with what looked like white phosphorus to bring down their tormentors. The whine of the bomb bay opening filled the cockpit.
The barrage intensified. The bomber shook as it flew through the turbulent air.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, release, release, release,” said Vetrov.
It took several seconds for the bombs to clear the bomb bay. Anisimov banked to the right and pushed the throttles to the stops. In a blink of an eye the bomber had gone supersonic and cleared the area.