The Doorstep of Oblivion

Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, has penned a gripping article in The Atlantic, chronicling the impending end of America’s air dominance advantage.  Along the way he chronicles a defining moment for then-Captain Cesar Rodriguez.

doorstep_oblivionOver Cesar Rodriguez’s desk hangs a macabre souvenir of his decades as a fighter pilot. It is a large framed picture, a panoramic cockpit view of open sky and desert. A small F-15 Eagle is visible in the distance, but larger and more immediate, filling the center of the shot, staring right at the viewer, is an incoming missile.

It is a startling picture, memorializing a moment of air-to-air combat from January 19, 1991, over Iraq. Air-to-air combat has become exceedingly rare. Even when it happens, modern fighter pilots are rarely close enough to actually see the person they are shooting at. This image recalls a kill registered by Rodriguez, who goes by Rico, and his wingman, Craig Underhill, known as Mole, during the Gulf War.

The F-15 in the distance is Rodriguez’s.

“The guy who is actually sitting in the cockpit staring out at this, he’s locked on to me with his radar, and that,” he said, pointing at the missile, “is about to hit him in the face.”

“So this is an artist’s rendering?”

“No,” said Rodriguez. “That’s actually the real picture.”

Read the whole thing.

(Via Air Force Live).

UPDATE: From the same article.

“The F-22 avionics allow me to be a better battle-space manager and efficient killer,” Tinsley explained. “I have stealth, so I have the surprise piece. And then on top of all that, I can do it at supercruise. I can climb higher than other fighters, I can go faster with lower fuel consumption, so I can cover a larger space. And no one can see me. Now we’re getting that 8-to-1 kill ratio I need to maintain superiority.”

[emphasis mine]

Killing eight enemies for every one of ours lost is asking a lot of our fighters pilots, even extremely well-equipped ones.  Asking them to do it with a legion of aging F-15s and a handful of F-22s will undoubtedly be bloody.

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