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Vipers in the Storm
Chapter Review

Click here to download RealPlayer for free!CHAPTER 29

This chapter is accompanied by a video recording of the actual "Heads Up Display (HUD)" tape made during the events described below.  To see the following video clip, you must have RealPlayer installed on your computer system.  Click here to download this player for free.

This video clip is best viewed after reading the actual chapter in Keith Rosenkranz's book, as he describes in great detail the sounds and sights you are about to see and hear.  If you do not have a copy of his book yet, you can order one here and save 30% off the list price.

RealPlayer Enabled  Click here to view the Chapter 29 HUD Tape.


My F-16 is level at 23,000 feet on a 285-degree heading.  Spike is eight miles in trail, and our airspeed is 350 knots.  My autopilot is engaged.

As we proceed toward Saudi Arabia, images of Iraqi women and children materialize before me.  I see a woman sitting alone, thinking about the husband she hasn't seen since last July.  Her children are asleep beside her, warmed by a single blanket.  Their home has been without electricity since the first night of the war.  Food is scarce and costly.  What little money she has is spent on the children.  The family has grown accustomed to the air-raid sirens and the blackouts, but the children still cry when they hear the bombs explode nearby.  They're confused by what is happening, and they miss the love of their father.  They miss life as it once was.

I don't know what their father looks like.  But I feel as though I've seen his face a hundred times.  He grew up on the outskirts of Baghdad and was drafted into the army at eighteen.  As a young conscript, he spent the last three years of the Iran-Iraq War fighting in the desert.  When the war finally ended, he returned to Baghdad, married the daughter of a family friend, and fathered two children.  He worked in the oil fields during the day and enjoyed his family at night.

Years have passed, and now the young soldier is fighting again.  Tonight he sits behind the wheel of a fuel truck.  On a dusty road seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border, he thinks about his family.  Most of his friends are dead, and he knows the Iraqi military will soon be defeated.  Still, he fights on.  The tanks and armored personnel carriers in his unit are in desperate need of fuel, and the depot is ninety minutes away.  The soldier is one of four drivers who must fill up their trucks and return to camp before sunrise.  Their commander is depending on them.


Forty-three miles southwest of Az Zubayr, in the heart of the Rumaila oil field, the Iraqi soldier forges ahead.  The darkness that surrounds him is constantly torn by flashes of jagged light as allied bombs rain down from the sky.  He wonders how much longer the nightmare will continue.  He hasn't eaten a solid meal in two weeks, and he can't remember the last time he had a bath.  Two men in his unit found Saudi invitation cards during dawn patrol yesterday and asked if he would drive with them to the Saudi border tonight.  He refused.  Defecting is a no-win situation for him.  If he were caught by his superiors, he would be executed.  If he were lucky enough to make it into Saudi territory, his family would be tortured for his treason.


I reach down to the left console and turn on my VTR.  Our target is fifty miles ahead, but if Spike and I can lock up some movers on the highway below us, we'll drop three bombs early.  After I access the air-to-ground master mode, I call up my GMT.  I program 40-mile scope and begin to sweep along the highway.  Within seconds, four small lines appear near the top of my screen.  While descending, I slew my cursors over one of the targets and push the TMS switch forward with my right thumb.  As soon as the target is locked, the ground-map video disappears, and a track diamond is displayed at the cursor intersection.

"Husky 17," I radio, "I've got some movers on the road about ten west of the steerpoint.  I'm going to go for them with three, then to the steerpoint after that."

"Husky 18 copies," Spike replies.  "I've got movers on the road also."

"Looks like the road moves from southwest to northeast," I continue.

Passing through 15,500 feet, I reach down and switch my VTR to HUD.  The highway shows up well in the FLIR, and the TD box is directly overtop of it.  The CCRP steering line is thirty degrees left of the flight-path marker, and my airspeed is 457 knots.  Descending through 15,300 feet, I begin to turn to the left so I can intercept the CCRP line with my flight-path marker.  I roll out heading 087, three degrees nose low.  Everything is set.  All I have to do is keep the flight-path marker on the steering line and wait for the solution cue to drop down.


Using his knees to steer the truck, the Iraqi soldier reaches for a flashlight and shines it on his watch.  It's nearly three in the morning.  He's thirty minutes behind schedule.  After he sets the flashlight down, he puts both hands back on the steering wheel.  The fuel depot isn't much farther.


I glance at the bottom-right corner of my HUD.  The target is twelve miles in front of me.  I pull the throttle back slightly and continue to descend.  I have no idea what type of vehicle my radar has locked up or who is driving it.  One thing I am sure of, though: He will be dead in less than a minute.

"Husky 18's locked on one about three miles east of the cursors," Spike radios.

"Copy," I reply.  "I'm about five to ten west.  They're on the road here.  I've got about ten miles to go."

"Roger," Spike answers.  "I've got eighteen miles to go and I'm sorted."


Descending through 11,400 feet, the max-toss cue begins to flash in my HUD.  The target is 7.1 miles ahead and my airspeed is 480 knots.  Within seconds, the solution cue appears at the top of the CCRP steering line and begins to drop toward the flight-path marker.  I pull back on the stick to break my descent and make a small correction to keep my flight-path marker on top of the steering line.  When the solution cue intersects the flight-path marker, three MK-82s drop from beneath my wings.

"Husky 17 has dropped three off," I radio.


The Iraqi soldier continues east.  The sound of his engine is all he can hear.  It reminds him of riding with his father through the ...

Looking out the right side of my canopy, the flash from my weapons lights up the ground below me.  A secondary explosion quickly follows, engulfing the vehicle.  The bombs have hit their mark.

"Husky 18 is off right behind you," Spike calls out.

"Copy," I reply.  "I'm proceeding to the steerpoint.  Close side - the west one."

Level at 30,000 feet over Bubiyan Island, I engage my autopilot and call up the steerpoint for Al Minhad AB.  After I check out of the area with AWACS, I reach into my G-suit pocket and pull out a package of granola bars.  While staring at the stars above, I think about the man who was driving the truck.  On previous missions, I never knew for sure if my bombs had taken the life of another.  Tonight was different.  An Iraqi soldier lost his life doing what he believed in.  I took his life away doing what I believe in.  I doubt his family will forgive me.


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