Tag Archives: U.S. Air Strikes on North Korea.


03:19 Hr.s Local. 35,000 feet, B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber “Spirit of Arizona”, 15 miles west of Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea.

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is nearly invisible to radar. But not bullets.

Pulling off target after a massive precision strike on the North Korean nuclear weapons development facility at Yongbyon, North Korea, B-2 Spirit number 82-1067, the “Spirit of Arizona” was leaving the target area at medium altitude and high speed. The aircraft was configured for minimum radar and signals observability with all lights retracted and emissions restricted. Spirit of Arizona was one of three B-2’s that leveled the nuclear research facility in a massive conventional bombing raid, the largest of the New Korean War so far. While it would take a few hours to collect bomb damage assessment data the satellite images would show the raid was a complete success, with the entire research facility, storage areas and the reactors themselves being completely devastated in a hail of precision guided 2000 lb bombs.

Now all the crew of Spirit of Arizona had to do was get themselves and their nearly invisible, completely defenseless, two billion dollar aircraft out of the most heavily defended airspace in the world and back to Diego Garcia.

03:22 Hr.s Local. 37,800 feet, North Korean MiG-29 Fulcrum, 28 miles southwest of Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea.

Sojwa (Major) Kim Si Gwok had more hours in MiG-29 Fulcrums than every other North Korean fighter pilot except for two. He did have the most time flying the Fulcrum using night vision goggles, a particular distinction considering the North Korean Air Force did not have enough night vision goggles compatible with the MiG-29 for all the aircraft they owned. That distinction put Maj. Gwok on CAP (Combat Air Patrol) in his MiG-29 tonight over the critically strategic target of Yongbyon as part of the air defense for the facility. That the American stealth bombers had already gotten through to hit the nuclear facility was a major failure for the North Koreans.

Maj. Gwok knew Yongbyon had been hit within the last few minutes, likely by cruise missiles or American stealth bombers. Gwok couldn’t do much about the cruise missiles. He read about British Spitfire pilots in WWII who had defeated the first cruise missile, the German V-1, by flying next to them and flipping them over with their wingtip. That would be impossible with the low altitude American Tomahawks. But, if there were stealth bombers in the area that he may be able to shoot down, he was going to try to find them. As a lifelong combat pilot he felt he had a sense of what the enemy’s egress route from the target might be, the shortest distance to the coast.  So that was where he went looking for the “invisible” American stealth bombers.

In March 1999 the Yugoslavians used a combination of ground based observers and expert search radar operators to shoot down an F-117 stealth fighter. It was a lucky shot, a golden BB, and it proved stealth wasn’t invulnerable. Major Gwok knew this. He knew that, other than stealth, the American batwing bombers were defenseless. If he could see one, he could shoot it down.

03:28 Hr.s Local. 35,000 feet, B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber “Spirit of Arizona”, 41 miles west of Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea.

Mission Commander, Capt. Bill Myers of Pensacola, Florida and Aircraft Commander, Maj. Dave Evans of Boulder, Colorado were getting constant secure updates on the air defense environment through their secure datalinks onboard Spirit of Arizona as she ran toward the coast after hitting Yongbyon. The three strike aircraft followed different egress routes in the very unlikely event an enemy aircraft or air defense crew could somehow visually acquire one of the B-2’s at night. Since the B-2 was a fast, subsonic aircraft, was relatively quiet, painted black to blend with the night sky and operated at altitudes to avoid contrails the chances of an enemy fighter pilot visually acquiring them was almost zero. But not absolute zero. Myers and Evans knew the entire North Korean air defense network would be up looking for them with everything they had. Even with the most sophisticated combat aircraft in history they still had to get out of North Korean airspace without being seen.

Local youth becomes a fighter pilot for a day with 301st FS

03:29 Hr.s Local. 37,700 feet, North Korean MiG-29 Fulcrum, 47 miles southeast of Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea.

Gwok didn’t really see the American stealth bomber as much as he saw what appeared to be a slit in the night sky. Reflected light from humid air at lower altitudes cast a low, soft glow upward from the ground below. The sky had a gently silver tinge to its black emptiness except for a small sliver of dead black below and to the left of Gwok’s MiG. Not knowing the sensor capabilities of the American stealth bomber, if that is what he saw, Gwok turned gradually to align himself with what he thought was his potential target’s heading. He gently moved the stick forward and, as his MiG closed the distance to the sliver of black the descent also added airspeed. His approach was perfect, high and behind. If he was right, this looked too easy.

03:29 Hr.s Local. 34,000 feet, B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber “Spirit of Arizona”, 51 miles west of Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea.

Myers and Evans knew they were in deep trouble. AWACs told them over secure, stealthy datalink  communications that there was an enemy aircraft high and behind them. There was a remote chance it could visually acquire them. There was nothing they could do except recheck the low observable settings and the make sure the throttles were firewalled so they could get out of North Korean airspace as quickly and invisibly as possible. If it wasn’t already too late.

03:30 Hr.s Local. 37,700 feet, North Korean MiG-29 Fulcrum, 49 miles southeast of Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea.

Gwok wasn’t quite sure it was an American stealth bomber at first. Through his visor, the night vision goggles and his canopy the image was ghosted and dark. A black slit in the otherwise pixellated sky. Then two bright rectangles of green bloomed in front of him; the exhaust heat from the B-2’s four engines. Even though they are channeled and louvered to prevent a large infra-red signature from below they still pump out a lot of heat as seen from from above. That heat lit up Major Gwok’s night vision goggles. His fingers flew over his console to unsafe his GSh-30-1 cannon. The instant the safety selector was slewed to “FIRE” his gloved finger clamped down on the trigger at the front of his stick. The 30 millimeter cannon tore off a succession of white-hot shells in a bright line of arcing white dots perforating the night sky. They expanded out in a wide curve and faded. Gwok jinked hard right, largely from instinct but also to avoid overrunning his target or even colliding with it. He didn’t know if he scored a hit. He pulled hard back and right on his stick, describing a tight circle to come around and see if he could spot the black stealth bomber.

As Gwok finished his tight 360-degree turn and rolled wings level he saw something trailing flame through the night sky, cartwheeling straight down toward the earth like a black, burning boomerang.

03:30 Hr.s Local. 34,400 feet, B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber “Spirit of Arizona”, 55 miles southeast of Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, North Korea.

Alarms lit off inside the cockpit. The nose went down and Evans tried to add power and gently pull back but there was no perceivable control response. The aircraft began to shudder, then pivot oddly beneath them. It was falling apart. The G-load increased and the aircraft entered a spin like a boomerang. Evans got one hand between his legs and into the ejection handle as he said, out loud into his mask, “EJECT, EJECT, EJECT!”. Myers never heard him. He may have been fighting the losing battle to save the aircraft, he may have been wounded, he may have been dead. He never made it to the ejector seat handles.

The B-2 spun nearly 180 degrees in the air, nosed down and began to topple like a kite freed of its broken string. The top of the flying wing’s fuselage exploded in a spit of flame as Maj. Dave Evans’ ACES II ejection seat rocketed free. It flipped end over end at first, falling through 15,000 feet until it stabilized somewhat. At 10,000 feet the barometric altimeter automatically released Evans from the seat and his parachute began to deploy. The ejection, like all escapes from a crashing airplane, was violent. The severe vertigo was made worse by the darkness. Evans lost consciousness from the centrifugal force of the seat spinning after his egress from the crashing airplane but came back into a hazy state of alertness once his parachute canopy opened and he was scooting along under it at a steady speed with the prevailing winds. He didn’t know it, but the winds were carrying him toward the west coast of North Korea.

A disadvantage to being a stealthy aircraft is that, when the aircraft goes down, it is very difficult for rescuers to know where to look for the surviving crew, if there are any. Major Dave Evan’s ejector seat was equipped with a ProFIND SLB-2000-100 locator beacon. The beacon is a part of the pilot’s survival kit packed into the seat pan of the ACES II ejector seat. It actuates automatically when the pilot separates and dangles below him as a part of the survival kit package. At 9,500 feet above the ground Evan’s locator beacon began to transmit.


03:40 Hr.s Local. 45,000 feet AGL, U.S. Air Force E-3G Sentry AWACS Aircraft, 21 miles west of North Korean coast.

Airman 1st Class Stephanie “Stuffy Stef” Monroe, an airborne sensor operator oddly prone to allergies on board an E-3G Sentry off the coast of North Korea, saw something on her monitor she had only seen in training. The flashing icon indicated an incoming emergency locator beacon from a pilot’s survival kit. She keyed her microphone to the on-board mission commander. In less than one minute half of the crew of the E-3G were shifting their workloads to a new priority; rescue one of the most sensitive assets in the U.S. military- a stealth bomber pilot.


Major Henry “Schadow” Schantz was an F-22 Raptor test and demonstration pilot prior to the sequester that grounded his Raptor Flight Demonstration Team. His F-22 Demonstrations thrilled air show crowds before congress pulled the plug on the funding. He was a classic fighter pilot, a stick and throttle man skilled at aerobatics and the lethal dance of aerial combat. He was also a virtuoso with the weapons systems of the F-22 Raptor.

Schantz was TDY (temporary duty) as a weapons and air combat instructor with the Air National Guard F-22 drivers at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska when the Korean Crisis began. He, along with the rest of the 477th Fighter Group, flew their Raptors over 3,600 miles to Japan wearing four big 600-gallon under wing fuel tanks on BRU-47/A external pylons. Once they landed at Yokota AFB west of Tokyo in Fussa, maintenance crews removed the tanks and pylons, restoring the Raptors’ low observability and uncluttered appearance. Then crews loaded the “Air Superiority” package on board. The Raptors became clean and naked on the outside for maximum stealth and performance. They carried a lethal internal load-out of six AIM-120C air-to-air missiles and two advanced AIM-9X all-aspect, infra-red air-to-air missiles. They also packed a holster of gun powder and lead in the form of 480 rounds of 20mm incendiary and armor-piercing cannon shells for their M-61 Vulcan cannons that spit shells at a withering 6,600 rounds per minute.

North Korea has a large air force for a country of its size. While most of it is relatively antiquated what it lacks in sophistication is compensated for by size. The primary concern over the North Korean battlespace was their MiG-29 Fulcrums. Maj. Schantz was sent to Guam to take care of those Fulcrums.

The Fulcrum is a worthy opponent with incredible thrust to weight from its burly, twin Klimov (formerly Tumansky) RD-33 turbofans that can belch 37,000 pounds of wet thrust. It uses an impressive Phazotron RLPK-29 radar sensor and fire control system with the ability to track ten targets simultaneously. In good conditions its radar can track other fighters up to 70 miles from the front quadrant of the aircraft, larger targets, like an American B-52, even farther. The bulbous IRST or “Infra-Red Search and Track” ball on its nose was an effective close range, stealthy sensor. Fulcrum drivers wore a unique helmet mounted sight that provided limited off-angle target acquisition. The MiG-29 is a robust fighter, with heavy covers that flop down over its intakes when taxing to prevent objects from being sucked into the intakes when operating from unimproved fields like a dirt airstrip or a roadway in time of war. It can be started with small explosive cartridges to rotate its turbines and does not need an APU cart. Even the landing gear looks like something from an off-road vehicle compared to squat legs of the F-22 that look decidedly delicate and ungainly on the ground.


Schadow Schantz and his wingman were back in the air only twelve hours after landing in Japan. As the sun rose the next day the pair were briefed and took off on a CAP (Combat Air Patrol) mission over North Korea. Climbing out of Yokota the pair immediately formated into a wide line-abreast to make maximum use of their net-centric AN/APG-77 Active Electronically Scanned Array radars. Since the F-22 is a low-observable or “stealth” aircraft the APG-77 radar is also stealthy, with a rapid interrogating, narrow beam scanning capability that makes it difficult to back track. Schadow’s tactics made best use of the F-22’s capabilities; find targets before they found him and engage them before they knew what hit them.

The APG-77 quickly picked up what looked like a beehive of North Korean air activity. Friendly air activity was marked by identification friend or foe (IFF) transponders on Schadow’s data screen in the F-22 cockpit. Targeting computers prioritized contacts and assessed range to target. When Schadow closed to within 80 miles of the first lock-up the computer gave him the option: TARGET:FIRE. He touched a button and the doors on the side of the Raptor flipped open like a gunslinger sweeping back his trench coat to draw. The launch rails expelled one AIM-120 AMRAAM and its engine lit as it tracked off, nearly straight, accelerating to Mach 4 on the way to target one. Only seconds after the first AIM-120 launch Schadow got another launch indication and selected “FIRE”. His first missile was still on the way to its target when the second left its launch rail. Less than one minute later four targets had been designated, prioritized and launched against with AIM-120’s. Schadow’s rate of closure had him to within 40 miles of the outer ring of contacts. He had Sidewinders and cannon shells left, and plenty of targets.

His sensors and local AWACs aircraft indicated that, miraculously, all four AIM-120’s had found home. In less than two minutes Schadow bagged two MiG-19’s, one prized MiG-29 and a lumbering tactical transport aircraft that was unlucky enough to stumble into the target designation screen of Schadow’s Raptor. He hadn’t even moved his control stick and he was one kill from becoming the first or second ace of the New Korean war. The first man to bag the next confirmed kill would have that distinction.

Schantz increased altitude and power, advancing his throttles to “supercruise” range and breaking the sound barrier without any afterburner. It only took gentle pressure on the stick to initiate an efficient climb attitude. With the sensor suite slewed to his remaining weapons package he needed to get close enough for an infra-red target acquisition to use his two AIM-9X’s. The ghost grey F-22 vaulted upward on its louvered, vectored thrust tail. It shot through a low, widely dispersed wispy cloud deck at 35,000 feet and kept arching upward as fast as a rifle bullet. Tearing through 40,000 feet Schantz saw his displays dance and blink with targets. None had detected him yet. His MFD’s signaled target “acqs” for his AIM-9X’s  and he began a wide, arching turn while leveling out at 50,000 feet, then he pushed forward and levitated against his seat harness as he went negative G beginning his dive to engage a pair of MiG-29’s below.

Schantz locked-up the first MiG-29 with a good tone and launched one Sidewinder. The range was closing fast and he worked quickly to gain another solution on the second MiG. Flares popping out from the first MiG and what must have been a gut-wrenching, speed-sapping high-G turn by the MiG signaled that the battle had been joined. Schadow Schantz made the transition from long-range sniper to street fighter.  The second MiG rolled left and broke, popping a trail of glowing flares while he let his turn out to not bleed off too much speed. In response Schantz traded altitude for airspeed for another two seconds, overshot, knew his first Sidewinder had somehow missed, cranked a full roll right reversing left after the second MiG. His cockpit lit with missile warning lights as the first MiG snapped off an R-27R missile, a dangerous and maneuverable dog-fighting missile.

The sky was full of contacts now. Schantz’s wingman was similarly engaged about 10 miles north, alternately bringing the fight to, and trying to evade another pair of MiGs. As other U.S. and North Korean aircraft entered the battlespace a series of “furball” dogfights began, with heat seeking missiles and now, the occasional ripping sound of air-to-air cannon fire filling the sky from 2,000 feet up to 35,000 feet. The greatest aerial battle of the modern era and the biggest since WWII had just begun.

Schantz’s automated countermeasures suite launched flares and anti-radar countermeasures as he realized he was a little hot and executed a pull-up to scissors to gain position on the second MiG. He instantly got a good tone and launched, the wide aspect Sidewinder seemingly defying physics as it dove into an impossible arc following the second MiG. Schantz realized the threat of the first MiG, the one he missed, at the same time his missile launch indicators lit up. The first ’29 had gotten in position for a good launch and Schantz was in trouble.

During the annual Red Flag fighter combat simulation exercise in Alaska, 2011, a number of Luftwaffe Typhoon pilots discovered that, if you get the F-22 into a low and slow engagement, it is no longer the clear winner. When dissimilar aircraft crossed sabers with the Raptor in a close-range dogfight the Raptor was just another jet with guns and missiles. It was no longer invisible, wasn’t much faster, couldn’t really turn much tighter and didn’t have a weapons advantage. It became just another fighter plane. In those circumstances, it became a contest between pilots. A dogfight.

An R-27R  missile is a deadly and maneuverable adversary. It can pull incredible G and is more maneuverable than any of the aircraft it is targeting. The one thing it lacks is a brain. And airshow experience.

Maj. Schantz was accustomed to flying his airshow flight demonstrations inside what is called the “aerobatic box”, a small cubic section of air space authorized for aerobatic competitions and demonstrations. As a result he had an extra repertoire of maneuvers not commonly needed in air combat school. One maneuver he used to reposition his aircraft and keep the demonstration in front of the crowd line. It was a variation of the famous Pugachev’s Cobra, a maneuver long since dismissed as strictly an airshow stunt with no tactical value. Basically, a Cobra maneuver laid on its side, this maneuver accomplished the critical tactic of “beaming” to defeat an air-to-air missile, or turning the aircraft violently to put the missile at your 3 or 9 o’clock. It also sucked airspeed, forcing the F-22 well below its “Vs” or stall speed. Depending on how fast (or slow) Schantz’s F-22 was going when he entered the maneuver the result would be that his aircraft would simply drop out of the sky.

Schantz knew his sophisticated fly-by-wire flight control system would protest such a maneuver, but he knew how to “cheat” the raptor by skidding it in the air, a sideways cobra, speed bleeding below Vs and his aircraft falling vertically out of the sky. The manipulation of pedals and stick was in utter contradiction to the software that managed the flight controls, but inertia and physics won out. and so did Schadow’s barnstorming skills. As the missile sheeted toward him with frightening speed his aircraft seemed to roll on its side, stop dead, and drop out of the sky like a broken toy. The missile over shot.


This stunt hit the reset button on the engagement. Schantz was now without airspeed and losing altitude, two things an aviator can never get enough of. In utter contradiction to what any non-aviator would do, he centered his stick, pressed it forward and added power. Altitude: 3,200 ft. AGL. Airspeed came up rapidly, 1,900 ft. AGL. Enough air was moving over his control surfaces that the plane began to fly again. Airspeed 180 knots, altitude 1,200 ft. AGL. It took more than a measure of nerve to watch the ground coming at him- and do nothing. 235 knots, 800 feet above the very hard ground. Alarms blaring. The F-22 is 62 feet long. Schadow couldn’t remember where that was measured from on the aircraft. He hoped it was the nose. 600 feet. He gently edged the stick back and felt the reassuring weight of G force as his G-suit inflated and the nose started to walk upward over the terrain to the horizon. By 250 feet the aircraft was nearly level, by 150 feet it had assumed horizontal flight and was at 250 knots and accelerating. Schantz juiced the throttle and pulled back, grabbing one quick look at his tactical situation display. A target was approaching from his 5 O’clock, about 1,500 feet above. He poured on the speed as the Raptor stood on its tail, got missile tone and fired his last AIM-9X. It missed.

Over the top Schantz pulled back hard, rolled inverted, got tally ho on the MiG-29 he just barely missed and pulled his stick back. The MiG must have been low on fuel since it appeared to be running. The “GUN” piper came up, an LED circle that predicted the path of his cannon shells. Schantz touched the trigger. There was a brief ripping sound and an unexpected belch of trailing smoke as the cannon spun up and loosed a line of 20mm shells.  The MiG flew right through them.

Nothing seemed to happen at first but then a brief tongue of flame exited the right engine and the aircraft rolled right. It occurred to Schadow that the MiG-29 is not a “fly by wire” aircraft and relies on a more primitive mechanical and hydraulic flight control linkage. More primitive, and more vulnerable to cannon shells punching holes in the aircraft. The MiG continued its right roll, settling into a dead engine, then began to pitch up to high alpha, a deadly combination from which there was no recovery at this altitude with a dead engine. The pilot did the smart thing and grabbed the handles. His K-36 ejection seat blasted upward, deploying a pair of stabilizing drogues, and he separated from the seat, his parachute beginning to deploy. The crippled, bullet riddled MiG skidded sideways in the air and dropped, a decidedly inelegant death for such a graceful plane.

Schantz saw the Korean pilot under his parachute, descending toward open fields. He looked like he tolerated the ejection well, his arms up and trying to steer the parachute. He flew one wide slow circle around the pilot. The chivalry of airmen transcended the horror of war. Schantz rocked his wings and the surprised Korean pilot watched in surprise as the Raptor stood on its tail again and accelerated vertically.

That was five.

USAF Major Henry Schantz, call sign “Schadow”, became the first combat pilot to score five confirmed kills, all in one sortie, in the new Korean Conflict making him the first ace of the war. That same day two more Raptor pilots would join the elite fraternity. Later that week a Marine pilot in an F-18 and two USAF F-16 pilots would also score their fifth aerial victories and become aces. In North Korea it seemed to be raining MiGs.


22:50 HRS Local, May 12, Knob Noster, Missouri; Whiteman AFB: Hold short, Runway 1/19.

In one of very few instances since August 9, 1945, a U.S. bomber armed with a nuclear weapon for a strike against an enemy was preparing for take-off.

The B-2 stealth bomber, serial number 93-1086 named “Spirit of  Kittyhawk” from the 13th Bomb Squadron, 509th Operations Group, taxied to the hold short at the far end of runway 1/19. It is the longest runway at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. Two U.S. Air Force 2W2X1 nuclear armament technicians and two civilian contractors from Raytheon Missile Systems performed final diagnostics on the AGM-129 nuclear armed Advanced Cruise Missiles via a data link to the weapon. The targeting data was quadruple checked: Primary target: the plutonium production reactor at Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, North Korea. After forty minutes of preflight checklists and weapons verification the giant flying wing rolled gracefully down the runway with gathering speed and slid into the night sky. It was headed north and west for the arctic and its holding area. It would perform a long duration loiter with tanker support until it was recalled, its endurance limit was reached (and its chemical toilet filled) and was replaced by another nuclear armed B-2, or it was directed inbound toward Yongbyon for a nuclear strike.

Kittyhawk and her nuclear strike component was the “Plan B”. “Plan A” was already well underway.

Hours before B-2 numbers 82-1066, “Spirit of America” and 82-1071, “Spirit of Mississippi” left on a similar navigational track but were armed with conventional GBU-57B Massive Ordnance Penetrator weapons. Each aircraft carried two giant 15-ton conventional bombs. Spirit of America was targeting a secret cyber warfare complex at Hamhŭng along the Sŏngch’ŏn River while Spirit of Missouri would strike the Yongbyon nuclear complex in advance of a potential nuclear strike by Kittyhawk.

The B-2 is the most expensive combat aircraft in history. And the most impressive. Its systems are so advanced it can hit targets with uncanny accuracy, frightening lethality and unnerving invisibility anywhere on earth with impunity. It is the one U.S. weapons system every adversary fears. Hence its value. It is a maintenance intensive aircraft, but it offers capabilities nothing else comes close to. The crews that fly and maintain the B-2 are among the most elite in the history of flight. More men have been to space than are authorized to fly the B-2.

All those facts being true the B-2 mission is a boring one most of the time.  The America and Mississippi tracked mostly north and partially west over the United States toward the Alaskan coast flying an approximation of the famous Polar Route. It was quiet and routine inside the cockpits. The two person flight crews made up of the aircraft commander and mission commander chatted about the weather, what the upcoming crew rotation would be like and the moon phase. That topic lead to a conversation about the Hasselblad cameras that the astronauts had left on the moon during the Apollo missions.

Work in the cockpit became more focused once the aircraft crossed Alaska. The course varied slightly left, avoiding Russian air space and tracking over the easternmost Sea of Okhotsk. The mission commander depressed a console button with the acronym “PEN” for “penetration mode”. Another weapons’ status was run and checks were made of special secure communications equipment. The flight computer’s pre-programmed mission profile changed the altitude and speed of the aircraft from an emphasis on endurance to an emphasis on stealthy infiltration of North Korean airspace. The aircraft commanders in both aircraft selected a document called “Attack Checklist”.


At almost the same instant as the strike on Hamhŭng, the nuclear facility at N’yongbyon was hit by an American B-2.

19:31 Hr.s Local (UTC +9), May 12,  Hamhŭng, North Korea, Headquarters, Korean Peoples’ Special Information Intelligence Directive, “Unit 10421”.

The air defense ring around Hamhŭng bears a great resemblance to the one around Baghdad prior to the first Gulf war. It is an integrated system with communications links between weapons systems and radars. It combines anti-aircraft guns for low altitude targets and many surface-to-air missile systems for higher altitude targets. Targeting information is shared between gunnery assets, to include missiles, creating complete, interlocking coverage up to 60,000 feet above the city. It is a lethal labyrinth of sensors and weapons all working in conspiracy to deny the airspace to the enemy.

If it works.

From out of the east, north and south a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles converged from three directions. They traced their robotic flight paths just above high-rise apartments and terminated on radar and communications with explosions that ranged from very small to enough to destroy a small building. Unlike the CNN video of Baghdad at the beginning of the Gulf wars there was little random anti-aircraft fire. The North Koreans knew better, and their equipment had advanced since then. While sirens blared across the city it was decidedly less dramatic than what people had experienced in the Middle East. Even if it were a spectacle, there was no CNN, BBC or MSNBC cameras there to record it.

As the anti-aircraft fire control centers and their attendant batteries maintained fire discipline the Spirit of Mississippi attacked Hamhŭng at medium altitude from the west, the least likely and least defended ingress route. Computers, inertial navigation systems and a device that inspected the sky above and compared it to the aircraft’s position verified the approach, locked in the best weapon release point and prepared to drop. The big faceted bomb bay doors opened quickly and both giant Massive Ordnance Penetrators left the aircraft. Unlike the usual pull-off from target by most strike aircraft the B-2 flew straight and level without a change in altitude, relying on its low-observable technology and the confusion of the enemy air defense suppression strike to protect it during its egress from the target area. The sky was barely dark enough to not be able to see the aircraft.

Both GBU-57B Massive Ordnance Penetrators pierced the roof of a low, glass office building and tore into concrete above the subterranean computer intelligence and hacking unit. The impact sent a seismic shockwave through the ground, like a localized earthquake. The only sound, at first, was the shrill whistle of their terminal approach, then a brief ringing crack from impact and an ominously low rumble you seemed to feel more than hear. Windows burst inward for a city block. For the briefest instant all was silent. Then the ground seemed to oddly collapse under the building the way a sinkhole forms. The depression spread outward in waves as the building folded inward and, before the shockwave reached its ultimate diameter a flaming monster burst from the sunken ground. It shrugged broken glass, chunks of concrete, earth and debris from its back, then roiled upward into the night sky, casting rotating shadows that seemed to flee from it, and disappeared.

Direct hit. Target destroyed.

Out over the Northern Pacific the flight crew of the nuclear-armed B-2 Spirit of Kittyhawk received its recall code via secure satellite communications. While they would never admit it, both crew members said a silent thank-you prayer as the aircraft left its orbit and began the flight back to Missouri.

Authors Note: While I do write for a living I don’t write fiction for a living. I do rely heavily on the inspiration, friendship and research of a number of people for short story projects. Some I can talk about, others not. One person I want to thank is Mr. David Cenciotti of Rome, Italy and his outstanding work on his publication The Aviationist. Take a look at David’s work. For the others, thank you very much.


Bob Jenkins owned three Taco Bell franchises in the Dubuque, Iowa area. One of them was the largest grossing restaurant in that district. Despite his success as an entrepreneur Jenkins was oddly tech adverse, which is why it surprised him when his wife Trudy bought him a Garmin GPS for his car last Christmas. It took him a month to put the thing in his car, and nearly an hour of sitting in the front seat to work through the “Quick Start” guide. Then, after initializing the unit, he drove around his subdivision at 15 MPH watching his position change on the moving map display. Since then he was hooked.

This morning, when he started the car, he found it frustrating that the GPS actually showed his car’s current position as over 30 miles away somewhere near Waukegan. How long was the warranty on this damn thing? Jenkins backed his Ford down the driveway somewhat smug in his disdain for technology and turned on the radio. His favorite preset was NPR. The President was holding a press conference. Jenkins drove four houses down the block on the way to his office. Then he stopped quite suddenly and pulled over.

“Jesus fucking Christ just don’t look up.” Captain Ron Davis, USAF, knew two things: He would die tonight and his entire existence was focused on getting his weapons on target before he did. Molten projectiles of red-hot lead crisscrossed in front of his canopy as his F-16C hurtled down the valley at 150 feet AGL and over 400 knots indicated. The ride was bumpy. His oxygen mask didn’t seem to fit right anymore. He realized it was because he was sweating so much it slid slightly on his face.

He passed his initial point almost immediately and was on the run-in to his primary target, a North Korean command and control bunker just north of the artillery positions that could pound Seoul to the south. The bunker was largely subterranean, meaning his initial strike with two 1000-pound bombs would not be entirely effective, but might buy some time. It was expensive time though and would likely cost an F-16 and its pilot. In the callous accounting of war this target was worth the price. Intelligence indicated this bunker transferred targeting data to forward line rocket and artillery batteries to correct fire after initial bomb damage assessment reports. The facility relied heavily on GPS data for targeting. For some reason that data now seemed to be indicating erratic positions for secondary targets, almost as though the stationary targets were moving. The North Koreans quickly shifted back to manual map templates for fire control of the second salvo of rocket and artillery strikes. The delay in doing so was only a few minutes, and that was all the first wave of American strike aircraft needed.

Capt. Davis’ weapons’ release computer slewed to the target and traced a line on his HUD to the best release point. He would execute a tactical pull-up to release altitude, roll inverted at the top of the hump, pull the side stick back to bring the nose back down, roll wings level and pickle the weapons. Then he would hit the ‘burners, dive for the deck and attempt to egress the target area if his F-16 hadn’t been hit by automatic anti-aircraft fire or one of the surface to air missiles that seemed to trace the black night every few seconds. The attack would take about nine seconds, the longest and probably last nine seconds of his life.  Davis reached the pitch-up to release point and hauled hard on the side stick, which didn’t really move much but sensed the pilot’s hand pressure on the stick to determine the control responses of the aircraft. His G-suit inflated as the crush of gravity pinned him into his semi-reclined ACES 2 ejection seat. The Viper began a precise climb as ground defense radars lit up with his sudden appearance. In only seconds an SA-2 Guideline surface to air missile left its launch rail and arced into the sky. The Guideline was an old missile that had plagued American pilots during the Vietnam conflict.  The primary tactic to defeat the Guideline, or “flying telephone pole” was to rapidly dive below it. In about three more seconds Davis could do that. In the mean time the chafe and flare dispensers were set to automatic and ejected a flurry of foil-like radar reflective countermeasure strips and a bright fan of white-hot magnesium flares to confuse any infra-red guided anti-aircraft or air-to-air missiles. At the top of the climb Davis snapped the Viper upside down and hauled back, then almost instantly half rolled to wings level. He picked up the target in his HUD and made small adjustments to be sure the “piper” was lined up right, then he hit his release switch and the aircraft shuddered slightly as two tons of high explosives fell from under his wings. His cockpit illuminated briefly from the exhaust plume of the SA-2 missile passing overhead. Another instant passed and the missile detonated, barely overshooting Major Davis’ Viper and missing him only slightly. He advanced the throttles to the afterburner range and the plane dived back down to relative safety. In another couple of seconds he exited the end of the canyon and hauled hard right, remember a statistic from weapons school that said over half of strike pilots pulled off target to the left, a fact that anti-aircraft crews knew too. Against all odds he had survived this first desperate, critical strike.

Inside the North Korean artillery fire control bunker the equipment remained largely intact. The crew serving it, much less so. The receiving end of any air strike is a gruesome scene, and despite being built into a rock mountain and largely concealed this bunker had sustained significant damage and even more significant casualties. The first of Major Davis’ 1000-pound bombs hit the primary opening to the bunker facility. Blast doors were closed but a resultant overpressure produced a concussive shock wave that, near the corners of the room, fractured skulls and snapped bones from the wave of energy. Instruments near the walls were damaged. The second bomb hit the top of the bunker, built to survive such an impact. The energy transmitted through the rock severed some communications links but more oddly, ruptured plumbing pipes that carried fresh water and sewerage into and out of the bunker. Water and filth sprayed into the bunker from the roof, shorting out more electronics and most lighting systems. Some small fires started, triggering an automatic fire extinguishing system. While the bunker remained entirely intact everyone inside was at least disoriented, some dead and most wounded. In short, their effectiveness had been compromised. Davis’ strike appeared ineffective from outside the bunker, but it would be several hours before the facility could regain command and control of its artillery and missile batteries.

Warfare is often a series of efforts to buy time, and Davis’ airstrike along with others going on simultaneously along the border area had just bought critical time. During that time heavy bombers would be within range to strike with their air launched cruise missiles. Then the battle would truly be joined.