Breath of Fish, Foot of Frog: A Su-25T Mission Log

I, with a metrical title, recount my thoughts on recent Su-25T shenanigans, including the two failed attempts before the one that made parvusimperator’s final report. -Fish

I’ve already written my initial impressions of the Su-25T, so I can skip that part and go straight to the SEAD mission.

As we were getting our armaments in order, kicking the tires, and lighting the fires, I suggested, “Why don’t we try a synchronized takeoff?”

Parvusimperator raised several legitimate objections: “Because I only started flying this aircraft an hour or two ago? Because it wanders all over the runway? Because we’ll crash into each other and die?”

“Pessimist,” I said. We lined up on the runway in rough formation, him as the leader ahead and to my left. We held the brakes in, ran up the engines, and released the brakes as we started rolling… and somehow, most of the way down the runway, I passed him. As little sense as that made, it wasn’t hard to get back in formation—I just slowed down and let him pass me. We turned toward the target, three SAM batteries 100 kilometers southeast of our airfield. Two of them were medium-range area defense systems: one 9K37 Buk and one Improved Hawk. One 9K33 Osa provided short-range support. Soon after we left the field, we were already getting painted by the I-Hawk’s search radar. The radar warning receiver made a little ‘boop’ every now and then as the beam hit us. Range to target, according to our instruments, was about 90 kilometers when we started getting the radar signal, and parvusimperator’s anti-radiation missiles had a range of about 50 kilometers. We drove in to that range at about 500 meters above ground level, whereupon parvusimperator lofted the first missile at the I-Hawk’s search radar. By that time, the Buk had found us, and we turned in that direction. After parvusimperator launched his missile, the annoying solid tone my radar warning receiver was blaring into my ears turned into an annoying fast beeping.

“I’ve been launched on. Going defensive,” I said, feeling very professional as I rolled out of formation, left a cloud of chaff in my wake, and dove for the deck. Looking out the right side of my cockpit, I could actually see the missile’s smoke trail off in the distance, headed in my direction. Fortunately, my dive to the deck and my turn to put the missile on my three-o’clock ran it out of energy before it could hit me. Parvusimperator, who had been watching his missile in, was less lucky: although he had fired on the Buk battery before the missiles launched, the battery’s search radar had cued the launcher’s fire control radar onto us, letting it launch its missiles and guide them to us even after parvusimperator’s missile knocked out the search radar. He took a hit and punched out, and we restarted. Our second try didn’t go much better—owing to a DCS bug, the anti-radiation missiles blew up moments after leaving their hardpoints.

On the third try, we finally found a little more success: parvusimperator launched from nearly maximum range on both of the long-range SAMs, and tagged the short-range one with one of his other SEAD missiles. Lacking his fancy ELINT pod (which gives him HUD cues toward radars, and therefore targets), I had to resort to more desperate measures: first, my FLIR targeting pod, which proved unhelpful, and finally my good old Mark I eyeball. I found the smoking husk of the Osa, dropping a cluster bomb on it for good measure, and headed north from there, following the threat heading indicator on my radar warning receiver and eventually finding the Hawk battery just as parvusimperator did. I made one pass with rockets and destroyed the launcher, and was looping around for another when parvusimperator tagged the last vehicle with a laser-guided missile. That done, we climbed to our rendezvous point, formed up again, and went home.