Counter Air – The Best Defense

     I learned today that sometimes the best defense is your opponents’ defense.

     Scrappy, Cash, Bender, and I all went out to defend an imaginary lane in the sky today.  Four F-15Js from Chitose were to play our adversaries.  Their job would be to try to shoot us down or get by us in order to assist red strike aircraft to proceed to an imaginary target area behind us (quintessential offensive counter-air).  The four of us had to prevent that from happening.  After a simple briefing and uneventful ground ops, takeoff, and departures, all eight aircraft entered the airspace in our opposite corners (in this case the north and south sides of the airspace).  We each began holding in our respective combat air patrol (CAP) areas.  At the prearranged time, we radioed "Fight’s on!" to our respective ground controllers, who called one another to confirm the war had started; immediately our two four-ships pointed at one another at a closure rate of something like 1,400 mph. 

     As the F-15Js pressed downtrack, we continued our commit out of our CAP and prepared to shoot BVR.  Suddenly (and without warning, even) the F-15Js performed the exploding cantalope maneuver (so called because when you sketch the engagement with a red pen, it looks a lot like someone threw a cantalope at the whiteboard).  The four of us quickly recovered from our shock that OCA was performing a standard DCA maneuver.  The shock was primarily that we expected them to attack us, not to bait us.  This simplified our problem of not letting the offenders get by us.  They didn’t appear to even want to get by! So Cash and Bender fired off a simulated salvo of missiles at whomever was flying directly at us, then turned cold back to the CAP.  Scrappy and I then turned around to make sure that 1) Cash’s and Bender’s simulated missiles simulated worked and that any dead Red was turning around and squawking the correct dead-man code, and 2) that the previous Red Air that exploded backward was not coming after us now.  Happily for us, Cash’s and Bender’s missiles ‘worked,’ and even better, the remaining two Red Air were in fact coming after us.  Scrappy and I fired off a simulated salvo of our own, and within another minute the lane was ‘clear’ of Red Air.

     Since the first engagement was so much fun, we asked the F-15Js if we could try it one more time.  So we all set back up again, called "Fight’s on!" and pointed all eight noses at each other once again.  We figured this time they’d come out Mach schnell and try to mow us down for sure.  But no kidding, as we approached each other from a distance, they did the same thing as before.  We obligingly handled them pretty much the same, only this time we were lower on missiles, and our ground controllers with dice in hand let us know that this time some of our missiles hadn’t worked.  So Cash and Bender ended up pitching hot one extra time and cleaned off their rails, and one of the Red Air managed to get a couple shots off at Scrappy before all Red Air was defeated. 

     All in all, it was a decent day’s work.  Unfortunately, we were hoping to get to some visual merges.  It had been a relatively clear day, Scrappy thought he saw one about 10 miles away from him.  Cash, Bender and I never did get tally on any of them.  All we ever saw was blips on our radars.  After we all bingoed out, we safed our simulation switches and proceeded back home. 

     As we debriefed the events of the mission, we wondered aloud why on earth the F-15Js kept trying to do defensive tactics when they were supposed to come after us or try to get around us.  As best we could tell, our Japanese allies haven’t really been doing any offense since, oh, about 1945.  We figured we’re going to have to teach them eventually, otherwise we’re never going to get any practice playing defense while we’re stationed in Japan!

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