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Leg 51: HADC Combolcha to HELX Luxor. Part Two - The Flight

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Leg 51: HADC Combolcha to HELX Luxor Part 2 - The Flight

Christmas Day over, Boxing Day arrived beckoning me to have a few jars and to watch the local Morris Dancers do their thing in the in the pub carpark.  It's always a good lunchtime treat, time to catch up with old friends whilst watching the inhibitions of the dancers drop away with every pint. At the start they do a dance with staves, gently taping them together as part of the dance. They do the same dance at the end when they are completely ratted on the beer. It’s a spectacle, Staves no longer being tapped together but hit so hard that bits fly off them. Morris Dancing is a fine example of historic tradition as it goes back to pagan times.

 

 

Having had my fill of beer and of standing around in a cold pub carpark I set off home. Halfway there my phone rang. The tone was the James Bond theme so I knew it was Jasmin before I answered it. She spoke quickly and went straight to the point. I was to be ready first thing in the morning, she would pick me up at 6 am and we were to fly out of Farnborough before midday. We were going back to Combolcha.

I had a quick turkey sandwich for lunch and packed a bag. After an early supper of turkey curry I had an early night and was up again at 5 am to be ready at 6.

In the car on the way to the airfield, and while I munched on my breakfast of yet another turkey sandwich Jasmin showed me the flight plan for the leg. It seemed I was to head to the coast and then turn North West once in international waters and blatt down the centre of the Red Sea and then take the shortest overland route to Luxor. Supersonic flight was permitted.

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Flight Plan

 

There were two questions that presented themselves upon seeing it: Why this route and what aircraft?

The “what aircraft” was to be the Tornado I had seen refuelling at Combolcha, the “why that route was more interesting.

It seemed that Temperance had a ship that patrolled the Red Sea. This vessel served as a replenishment ship for pirates operating further south in the Gulf of Aden. The Pirates worked from small boats that were resupplied from larger, but still relatively small mother ships that loiter in international waters in the Gulf.  Up until now these Mother ships had to sail home to their home ports to re-fuel and re-stock. Temperance were helping this lucrative trade by offering a resupply service in the Red Sea. This provided a ready source of fuel, food, drink and weaponry to the pirate mothership, thus avoiding the risk of crossing policed territorial waters and helped with the difficulty of sourcing weapons.  All well away from the Pirates hunting ground and at a cost of a percentage cut of any bounty earned.

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A Pirate mothership

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden has been in serious decline since 2013, but the seas off the coast of Nigeria have seen an increase in that time. Temperance was attempting to revive Somali based piracy, by supplying the pirates with highly sophisticated equipment and weaponry that would enable them to evade the naval deployments or to fight back effectively if evasion was not possible. They planned to do all this without the pirates having to set foot on land and wanted to do this whilst the world was looking the other way at Nigerian piracy.

Our job was to sink the Temperance ship, thus denying the pirates weapons, ammunition, fuel, fresh water and food. Effectively closing them down.

After locating the vessel we were to attack it with Laser guided bombs and then proceed to Luxor.  Out weapons platform would be the Tornado GR4.

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A Pirate raider

We arrived at Brize Norton and were ushered into a waiting A400M Atlas and we were in the air twenty minutes later. Then it was in with the ear plugs and off to the land of nod for me. This is one point where Jasmin envies me. I can sleep anywhere. I once camped 50 yards from the track at Le Mans and had a very good nights sleep. After four and a half hours the flight was interrupted with a stop at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. Fuel and stuff was loaded, other stuff was unloaded.

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Our Transport at Akrotiri

Two hours later we took to the air again for another four and a half hours, passing over Israel, Jordan, Saudi and Eritrea before reaching Ethiopia.

Combolcha was much as we had left it except the lads looking after the Tornado were more tanned.

There were now two Tornados on the airfield. Interesting. Together they took up virtually all the parking space available at the airport.

We grabbed a coffee in the airport building and sat down to enjoy our brew. Just as it had cooled enough to drink my old mate Clive appeared. “No time to drink that now, the Temperance ship has been spotted at sea off the coast of Eritrea, just where we want him.

The briefing was a simple affair. We were to head north east at 300 feet using our terrain following radar and cross Djibouti to the southern neck of the Red Sea.  There we would proceed North North West up the centre of the red sea still at 300 feet and would be vectored on to the ship by a ground controller.

An agent had put a transponder on the ship so it was impossible to attack the wrong ship. One Tornado would then act as target designator while the other made the attacking run. We were to make the attack, and we were to start at dawn tomorrow.

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Just as the sun was rising

Just past dark o’clock the following day we were checking the aircraft as were the other crew. Our stores load was to be a pair of long range fuel tanks, a couple of Boz pods for ECM, flares and chaff, two Sidewinder air to air missiles, a couple of GBU 16 laser guided bombs and a JDAM laser guided bomb in reserve.

Checks done, we mounted up and started our pre-flight checks. Soon we found ourselves on the end of the runway waiting for take-off clearance.

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Cleared for take-off

Cleared for take-off the two Tornados sped down the runway and were soon airborne. Our wingman to the right and behind, close in tight we cleared the Combolcha town limits and were soon over a stony wasteland. We dropped down to 300 feet and started up the Terrain following Radar (TFL).

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In formation over Ethiopia

With the Flight Director plugged into the TFL we undulated over rocky hills and flat baron plains at 500 kts.

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Popping up to 700 ft. to cross some mountains.

In the picture above, the left-hand green and black display is the terrain following display.  It is indicating higher land ahead as the curves on the display are raised to the right hand side

I sat back to enjoy the ride, not really relaxed about it though, so kept watching the terrain following display and the land ahead.  My concerns were unfounded, the TLF did its work very well.

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Crossing into Djibouti airspace at 300 ft

After what seemed a very short time we crossed into Djbouti airspace. We didn’t really ort to be here, as we hadn’t asked if we could. However, because of our 300 ft height, speed of 750 kts and the size of Djibouti, we had arrived, transited and left their air space before you could say “what the feck was that!”.

 

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The Red Sea coast from Jasmin’s viewpoint.

Over the red sea, Jasmin got busy setting up the targeting data. We were cleared to engage with any or all of our air to ground weapons once the target was identified. Jasmine announced that we were ready to engage once the target was identified.  Our wingman then climbed away to point his laser onto our target.

 

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Over the Red Sea, Our wing man peels off to get into position to lase the target.

Ten minutes later our wingman announced he had acquired out target and that he had commenced “painting” the vessel with his laser.

We dropped our now empty under wing tanks to make is as manoeuvrable as possible.

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Target acquired, our drop tanks are discarded before we attack.

 

Tanks gone we commenced out attack. We would drop both GBU 16 bombs and if they failed we would commence a second attack with JDAM. I activated the late arm to ready the weapons and accelerated the aircraft. This was the moment!

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The second of two GBU 16s away

We ran at the target at 300 ft and at the right moment I pulled back on the stick to “toss” the bombs onto their target. There was a clunk and then another one as the GBU 16 left their mounts and dropped seaward to give the Temperance chaps our Christmas greetings.

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Climbing out of the attack, I bang out some flares just in case.

As we crossed the target in a climb, we were pointing our hot exhausts directly at the Temperance ship. I banged out some flares in case someone had an AA missile down there but I need not have worried. I heard nothing over the noise of the aircraft but Jasmine reported that one of the bombs had scored a direct hit.

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Scratch one Temperance ship.

Later we would see a photo taken by our wing man of the sinking Temperance ship (see above).

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Approaching the coast of Egypt at a little over Mach 1.4

We ran northwards over the flat and very close Red sea, still at 300 ft. as soon as Luxor was on our port beam we executed a 90 degree turn and starter our run towards the Egyptian coast. From a distance it looked quite flat, but the distance was deceiving.  There were some large peaks between us and Luxor. Time to test that TFR again.

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Enjoying the rollercoaster ride that TFR gives you.

I can testify just how good the TFR is and back it up by irrefutable evidence. That evidence is me. I am still alive. It is an amazing ride, and it works like a dream. Once your confidence is up, its great fun. But it really is a confidence thing.

 

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The green ribbon that is the river Nile

I was just beginning to feel a little queasy what with the undulating TFR ride and all when up ahead I saw a green strip winding across the desert, the Nile, and with it Luxor.

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Passing over the airport

I turned down our speed down to 350 kts and climbed up to 1,000 feet to fly past the airport, and then up another thousand to 2,000 for my approach, bringing the wings forward as I did so .

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On finals

Wings fully forward, flaps down full, speed 250 kts, wheels down. And then I was setting the aircraft down on runway 02. leg51-9.jpg

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Touchdown

Once on the deck the lift dump went into action and the “buckets” slid out and round to divert the engines thrust forward.  We stopped very quickly and were soon leaving the runway.

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Reverse thrust “buckets” at work

I just love the way the reverse thrust works on this aircraft. It is no wonder a Tornado always has a sooty tail. 

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A long Taxi

We had a long taxi as we were not allowed to park up with all the other aircraft. I guess that was because we still had some stores aboard that could go bang if not properly handled. We eventually parked up in the isolation area which was on the far side of the airport away from all of the nice comforts an airport can offer.

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Parked up on the isolation stand

A truck appeared with a bunch of RAF blokes in it and after we had shut the engine down and made the aircraft safe they swarmed over the thing doing whatever they do. Jasmine and I cadged a lift in the truck back to the airport terminal.

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Luxor is thought to have one of the world’s worst airport cafés

We headed to the Café for a drink and something to east. Surprisingly there was a lot of stuff on sale advertised as food, but most of it looked like it had been there since the Pharos time and neither of us decided to risk it. We has a cold bottle of fizz each instead. All I had to do was to wait for Tim and hand him the Baton. I was pondering the events of the last few hours, and I wondered if the Baton had ever been in action before.  Joe would know. 

 

Authors note:

It has taken me a long time to produce this, my first ever leg in X-Plane.  First I had to get used to a new sim, and then I had to learn how to use a new aircraft.  Fortunately knowing the JF Tornado for P3D helped me with where things were in the cockpit, but there was much to learn despite that.  To fly this tornado (By Trident) you have to use both the pilot and co-pilot positions as there are things you can’t do from the front seat from the very start, and quite right to. Almost everything works. The arming systems work, the bomb loads and other stores are there for you to choose from, you can launch AA, AG and fire guns, the target locking works, maps can be loaded into the centre consul (I didn’t do that for this trip, but I will for the next time I use this aircraft), and the TFR works a treat. All of these military functions work out of the box, the only paid add-on for this PIREP was the Tornado itself. 

I will be doing all my flying with X-Plane 11 now, as it is a superb F.S., highly adaptable, and as stable as a rock.

 

 

Edited by J G
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Nice PIREP John, I was wondering if the baton was going to get a mention but there is was in the last paragraph!

 

On 15/01/2019 at 01:08, J G said:

I was pondering the events of the last few hours, and I wondered if the Baton had ever been in action before.  Joe would know. 

Many times! Not that we admit it :)  

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Brilliant PIREP John, especially since you have been using new equipment too! :good:

Satisfying to give Temperance a good kicking that they'll not forget (unless any were unlucky to not escape as the ship went under, in which case they won't be remembering much of anything). Reassuring that the baton got to Luxor in style.  

Make sure you get some sightseeing in while you are there. I went to Egypt when i was just 15 but those 14 days travelling down the Nile and walking in the footsteps of the gods was one that has stayed with me ever since.. well worth it if you don't have to get back to cold, dark, and damp Blighty ;)

I'd love to know where you got your 'wing-man' from.. is that a separate program? I know i don't have x-plane, but three may be an FSX freeware equivalent out there.

 

Edited by hlminx

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@hlminx  Funny you went to Egypt at 15, when I was 14 I went to Alexandria and Cairo as part of school educational cruise on the SS Nevasa. We saw the Pyramids and the Egyptian museum in Cairo, and that trip has stayed with me as well.

The wing man comes with the Trident Tornado addon aircraft as a "buddy" tanker from which you can refuel, with no extra addons, but I used a plugin called Xwing to fly in formation and just pointed it at the AI Tornado that came with Trident addon.

All the military stuff, weapons, air to air, air to ground and guns, chaff, flares is supported by native X-Plane as is targeting, moving maps, terrain following (which is fun but a little heart stopping at times).  Obviously not every aircraft can do all of these things but you don't need any additional bits like TacPac for those that do. I am still finding out more good things every time I load up X-Plane.  I understand why those X-Planers I have met are so passionate about the thing.

I have spent a fortune on Microsoft based simulators over the years from FS 95 to P3D v4. But as a military flyer X-Plane is just so good at doing what I want I have had to take a breath and flush all that lot away and start again.  I am glad I did.  It's a shame I cant sell all of the licences I have :wacko2:

Edited by J G

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750 KNTS, 300 ft: YEAH!!! :yikes:  Cool PIREP.

Agree with your assessment of x-plane; rock solid and beautiful right out of the box.  My P3D has only been fired up a few times after completing last year’s MEBAR.

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15 hours ago, J G said:

@hlminx  Funny you went to Egypt at 15, when I was 14 I went to Alexandria and Cairo as part of school educational cruise on the SS Nevasa. We saw the Pyramids and the Egyptian museum in Cairo, and that trip has stayed with me as well.

Interesting, I did a school educational cruise in '77. We were on the SS Uganda (later to be a hospital ship in the Falklands). We visited Israel, but missed out on Egypt. Still want to go there some day . . .

 

(still happy with P3D ;) )

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Terrific PIREP JG. I can personally attest that the baton has seen action, and aliens. ;) 

One of these days I plan to scrap my old computer and buy a fresh one, I suspect I will be abandoning FSX at that time. Xplane is looking VERY attractive in no small part thanks to it's not messing about with "Licenses" like P3D...a feature I dislike intensly, although I understand it is to dodge/deal with MicroHard Fsx licensing restrictions.

 

Regards.
Matt.

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4 hours ago, Tim_A said:

Interesting, I did a school educational cruise in '77. We were on the SS Uganda (later to be a hospital ship in the Falklands). We visited Israel, but missed out on Egypt. Still want to go there some day . . .

 

(still happy with P3D ;) )

We nearly missed out on Egypt as well.  Some Arab faction had threaten to mine British shipping in Alexandria at the time.

As a result, when we were moored in Alex we had two men in a tiny boat puttering around the ship throwing charges into the water to ward off divers.  They would lob one in and there would be dull thump and a water spout where the thing had gone off. All very fascinating to a 14 year old boy until it was time for bed.  All night long there were loud clangs like someone hitting the hull with a very large sledge hammer as these charges went off. Not much sleep for the two nights we were there.

 

Still Happy with P3D?

On the stability side of things:

FSX = Jelly (Jello)

P3D = Mouse (Chocolate admittedly)

X-Plane 11 = Rock (and I don't mean cakes either)

Edited by J G

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19 hours ago, J G said:

@hlminx  Funny you went to Egypt at 15, when I was 14 I went to Alexandria and Cairo as part of school educational cruise on the SS Nevasa. We saw the Pyramids and the Egyptian museum in Cairo, and that trip has stayed with me as well.

WOW.. that must have been some school... at my Comp, you'd be lucky to go further than Switzerland, and that was just for seniors!

Know what you mean about licences...think my loft has become a gravesite for old FSX add ons..

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Came across plenty of those buggers when I was in the Merch.  Often seen off with high pressure fire hoses or a bombardment of scrap iron courtesy of the crew. Always satisfying when an old anchor shackle goes through the bottom of the attacking boat!  Especially prevalent off the coast of Nigeria at one point.  Also a fair few in the Malacca Strait. 

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3 hours ago, hlminx said:

WOW.. that must have been some school... at my Comp, you'd be lucky to go further than Switzerland, and that was just for seniors!

Know what you mean about licences...think my loft has become a gravesite for old FSX add ons..

I went to a Comp as well. It just had ideas above its station. We played Rugby and not football as well.

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