Friday, May 4, 2018

Installment 4.6: Taking the fight to the enemy

Overview of the battle site just south of Sacramento.
“Update to teams from C-n-C (Command and Control), choppers are estimated at 200-to-250 meters elevation.  They are flying in a V with the point of the V even with the head of the column.  Estimated speed is approximately twenty miles per hour.  Action will commence in about five minutes.  Keep your heads down.  I will blow the horn ten seconds before the party starts.  Keep your heads down.”  Chad announced on the open channel.

Nearly all of the teams were deployed east of Interstate Five so the sun was at the teams’ back.  Most of the MANPADS (shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles) were old technology, infrared seeking missiles that could be “confused” by the sun or by flares.  Chad had a few state-of-the-art MANPADS but he was holding them in reserve.

MANPAD teams were identified with numbers with the lower numbers being the northern teams.  Chad’s thinking was to ripple the firing from the back of the chopper formation to the front in the hopes that pilots would not visually see the threat.

“Update to teams from C-n-C (Command and Control), choppers are at 200 meters elevation.  Keep your heads down.  Engagement to start in about thirty seconds at the “mark”.  Estimated speed is twenty miles per hour  Keep your heads down.  Teams one-through-six will start the party.  Repeat, Teams one-through-six will start the party.  Teams seven-through-twelve will join action at the first detonation on target.   Keep your heads down.  MARK!”  Chad announced on the open channel.

Ten seconds out…
White "stars" are choppers or "vampires".  All teams to the east, right side as shown in image, of the chopper formation.

“Update:  More targets than teams.  Engage aft chopper in your sector, then launch on forward chopper.  Visually acquire, range with laser and launch at will.  Godspeed.  ENGAGE! ENGAGE! ENGAGE!”

Each missile team consisted of two people, a shooter and a spotter.

Under usual circumstances, the spotter provided security and kept an eye on things while the shooter focused on the target.

Because the teams knew that there were more targets than teams, and because they had a healthy respect for the 7.62mm miniguns in the choppers, both members of the team popped out of their “hide” with missiles on their shoulders.

Each team was responsible for a zone from immediately west of their location to heading 225 degrees, or forty-five degrees south of due west.

Launching a MANPAD at a helicopter while it is quartering away from the launch is a nightmare for the people in the helicopter.  The turbine exhaust heats up the tail assembly and the downwash directs the exhaust onto the tail boom and heats it up as well.  Launches from this direction are also outside the pilot’s cone-of-vision.

Commodity grade, IR guided MANPADs have a range of approximately five thousand meters or three miles.  In most cases, the first flight of MANPADs from Chad’s teams were launched at ranges of six hundred to one thousand meters.  They closed at 500 meters a second and detonations occurred between 1.5 and 3 seconds after launch.

None of the first six targets survived.

Two of the secondary targets were piloted by veterans and they dumped flares and dropped into the weeds.  Those actions were quicker than thought.  Most of the pilots were still staring at the warning light thinking, “What does that one mean?” when the missiles detonated.

Four of the secondary targets were hit and destroyed.

At the sound of the first detonation Teams Seven-through-Twelve popped out of their hides.  Eight targets and six shooters.  The first six went down.  And then the second two went down as six missiles chased two choppers out of the sky.

Chad and Kenny were watching through their binoculars.

Chad said, “Kenny, you run the teams on the west and I will direct the teams on the east.  Let’s knock the last two bastards out of the sky.”  Then he switched to the open channel.  “Two vampires still in play.  Mortar team Alpha and Bravo, start hosing the freeway.  Work south-to-north as planned.”

Orange dot is the location of Team Delta.  Dashed yellow line is route of buses.  Solid red line is maximum range of mortar.  Dotted red line is the start of their designated targets and then they are to work north (up).

Chad commented to Ken, “I guess we are going to see how stealthy those funny looking mortar rounds are.”  In theory the precision ground facets would reflect very narrow lobes.  Even if the projectile was spinning, the return signal would be so brief as to defy a “solution” to the fire control system’s millimeter band radar.  Fin structures are very non-stealthy and they had been replaced with small, plastic blades that were transparent to radar.  Furthermore, the projectiles were decidedly nose-heavy.  All of those features caused them to be touted as the first accurate,  ‘stealth’ mortar rounds.  Chad’s teams were about to find out if those claims were true.

The mortar teams had “alpha” designations so they would not be confused with missile teams.  They were ordered from south-to-north.

Military planners often used the acronym OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).  It is a loop.  Observe, i.e., collect facts.  Oriente: Align resources.  Decide: Make a plan.  Act: Pull the trigger.  It can be an effective tool.  It can also be used as a weapon.

Shooting down the helicopters went from back-of-formation-to-front to discombobulate the “Observe” function.

Once choppers started falling from the sky it was time to jack the target with “Orient”.  Starting the mortar targeting from the front of the string of targets was going to compress the slinky, as Chad called it.  In terms of the mortar teams, it was going to create “target rich environments”.

The buses were running two abreast with approximately one bus length, about fifty feet, between them.  Every tenth space was an armored personnel carrier.  All told, there were approximately three hundred buses in the six mile targeted zone.

Buses are civilian vehicles.  They are soft targets. 

The first few rounds from each teamwere targeting rounds.  Once the range and azimuth was nailed down, each crew started walking the rounds down the freeway from south-to-north, the opposite direction the missile teams had used.

Carnage ensued.

Some drivers were listening to their music players and were completely oblivious until they rear-ended the buses in front of them.

Other drivers locked up their brakes and dived to the shoulder.  They dumped their vehicle into reverse and attempted to outrun the hot shrapnel.  Ironically, the worst drivers fared the best.  They crashed through the guard rail and rolled down the embankment.  The deadly blasts flew over their heads.

Meanwhile, one of the two surviving choppers flew into power wires while eluding a man launched surface to air missile.  The pilot was good but power wires were not much of a factor in the ‘stans.  The pilot of the other chopper decided to live to fight another day.  He retreated until he was five miles north of the last known missile launch, gained altitude and started collecting video of the developing battle.

“Fireteams Charlie-through-Foxtrot:  Listen up.  Spotters, wait for vehicles to bunch up in your fire zones.  Walk the fire into them from the south.  Take your time and maybe you can chase the stragglers into the kill zone.  Delta: It looks like you have a cluster of about twenty vehicles already.  Show us how it is done.” Chad said into his mic.

It should be noted that the spotter for Team Delta was Carlos.  It looked like he was going to get some payback pretty soon.

Switching channels, Chad said “Missile teams.  Vampires are gone.  Switch to RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades).  Keep those Armored Personnel Carriers off the mortar teams.” 

While the mortar rounds were shredding the buses the shrapnel was pinging off the armor of the APCs.  The only thing it was doing to the crews was putting them in a bad mood.

Team Delta was positioned in a CONEX container that had the roof peeled off of it.  The container was positioned behind a building supply store that had gone belly-up after Calexit.  The CONEX container was 300 meters from the freeway.  The targets were enfilade to the fire team.  Essentially, the team only needed to make adjustments to the range in order to engage their targets and miscalculations of range still resulted in hits.

They slowly walked their fire from south-to-north, firing one round every fifteen or twenty seconds.  A vehicle traveling fifteen miles an hour covers about a hundred yards in that amount of time, and that is how much each round advanced.

It is not hard to herd dust-bunnies when they have nowhere else to go and they are sufficiently motivated.  The drivers had thrown their buses into reverse and were knocking the snot out of any of the ACPs that got into their way.

At the end of the sweeping fire maneuver there were thirty-five buses gridlocked with a multitude of fender-benders and aborted three-point turns near the end of Team Delta’s primary fire zone.

Carlos called down, “Add fifty (meters) and Fire for effect.”

The natural dispersion caused the rounds to disperse somewhat.  After ten rounds Carlos called down, “Give me an RCH more range and continue firing.

The firing rate that had been one every twenty seconds sped up to one every five seconds.

After ten rounds Carlos called down “Give me another RCH more range and continue firing.”

In spite of the puddles of fuel and twisted, smoking metal, the shattered targets had not caught fire.

Carlos called down.  “Return to the last target heading and give me some Willie Pete (White Phosphorous).”  Carlos knew there had to be lots of spilled fuel.  He wanted to help it catch fire. 

The crew did not have any White Phosphorous rounds so they fired a conventional Illuminating round (flare).

Within seconds of the first illuminating round being fired, the 25mm cannons on most of the Armored Personnel Carriers swiveled and started spraying the parking lot of the defunct store with small cannon fire. 

The team had taken the precaution of parking two CONEX containers between them and the freeway and filling it with rock. 

Carlos was not so lucky.  The millimeter radars and Infrared tracking systems on the APCs had been scouring the horizon looking for the source of the mortar shells dropping on them.  The conventionally shaped illuminating mortar round left a vivid trace on both.  In a fraction of a second the computers on each APC processed the information and constructed a path back to the horizon. 

The computers commanded the gun’s tracking servos to fire a continuous burst along that path from the skyline to the calculated horizon.  Unfortunately for Carlos, he was in that path.

Next installment

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