As soon as I roll out on our reference heading, I begin
sweeping with my air-to-air radar and I look down at the ground to practice clearing for SAMs and AAA. I notice lights belonging to some of the army camps. I cannot believe how spread out they are. With hundreds of thousands of troops in theater, I expected to see lights everywhere, as if I were looking at a big city. But the desert is big, and the camps are few and far between - like small towns out in the country.
After Duck completes his pass, we reverse rolls again and proceed back toward the east. To simulate wartime conditions, we practice the next two passes with our lights off. Keeping sight of an aircraft without its lights on can be difficult. But with radar, a FLIR, and an air-to-air TACAN, the adjustment was easy.
Another hour passed before we landed at Al Minhad. The four-hour mission complete, we debriefed, reviewed our HUD film, and talked about tactics. Both of us were extremely pleased with the sortie, and Duck remarked that he would introduce the new tactics to the rest of the squadron during ATWATS training the following afternoon.
As soon as we finished debriefing, we headed for the beer tent to unwind over a cold one.
"The skies were crowded tonight," Duck remarked.
"I'm sure the Iraqis knew we were there," I replied. "It must have been a scary sight when they looked at their radar screens."
"It's going to be that way from now until the deadline," Duck said. "They might as well get used to it."