THE HARDEST: DESERT SCARAB

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: dreamscape

What happens when you occupy another’s land can manifest into a violent response. A foreign garrison is under severe attack, their salvation is the massive air support. While the ground battle rages the salvation faces the gauntlet of a prepared enemy air defense. Who wins the contest? Story’s bedrock is moral resistance to occupation.

Animals went about their nightly survival on the dark, hardly interested in the human construction in clear view they hopped, fly or slithered around.

 

Troops established themselves in a forward operating base – assortment of buildings and firing positions ringed by HESCO MIL, a collapsible wire mesh container filled with sand. Entry is controlled at the gate.

 

Dark soon to give way, the sunrise scheduled to begin bathing all shortly. Most men asleep in quarters, others on lowered alert status. In the bowels of the tractor dug bunker are electronic gadgets and operators. The nerve center. ‘Go ahead Lucens.’ The base commander was called down for his attention.

 

Operator Lucens directed attention to thermal. A camera detecting heat, viewed objects projected on his screen as black and white. ‘Detected approaching in ones or twos, stationary several thousand meters distant. Judging by size must be vehicles. If regular traffic would have passed us by. They don’t look to be moving on.’

 

‘Attackers would rush the place to close the distance, not hang out there.’

‘Your guess is as good as mine sir.’

‘No harm sending a patrol…then again.’  

 

In a while men assume battle stations. A partial manning. Captain Dewinters still debated if all his men were justified being disturbed. Sunrise is soon at hand, by that time time honoured raising of the flag then a little breakfast. His men could use that extra bit of sleep.

 

Lucens updates his base commander. On screen small black specks. ‘Captain sir, 2000 meters away and clustering. Sounds consistent with man sized heat sources.’  

 

Thump, thump, thump. Mortar blasts could wake a devil. A type of artillery. Any soldier asleep has it roughly stolen. Troops rush to positions, this time no one has to be told battle stations, their voices add to cacophony of footsteps and weapons readied. Tracers reach for the base, piercing the darkness – heavy machine gun rounds. Naturally it hadn’t taken long for the occupants to shoot in kind.

 

The captain learns the thermal showed the specks now several clusters, not only were they men but advancing on foot. The enemy in the low hundreds strong. By radio high command is alerted. 

 

Some specks cease moving, those who’d been hit. Albeit bigger they are means their comrades are getting closer and gradually are resolving into more defined shape. 

 

‘That’s what you get when you occupy,’ captain Dewinter’s sagaciousness acknowledged the cause. In the days leading up camel headers were spotted, must’ve been spies. ‘Mirres,’ he addressed the radio man. ‘Playing our ace early. Get those jocks on the horn. I’m headed topside.’  

 

The base called air support, thousands of feet above, a plane banked. Anyone in the right place can see the ground and vehicle light up momentarily, followed by a bright meteor racing up through the sky.

 

The origin was the vehicles from earlier.

 

Racing to the scene, pilots report unexpected resistance to high command. Missiles. These pilots are forced to dodge and go low. The missiles guidance do not fail to track them. For maneuvering the heavy warload must be dropped. Maneuvering meant evading the guided rockets. At these altitudes can crash you into the ground. The planes turn back. Only when time passed was the base promised air support would be renewed, when they actually learned air cover was driven back. Testimony to enemy surprise.

Dawn’s daybreak. Expensive thermal wasn’t needed to see the men now several hundred meters away, good use was made of an absent aerial response. The force was intact. From them RPGs screamed at the base, exploding, intermingled with mortars impacting within the compound.

At an airbase, attack planes roar off the tarmac, afterburners alight. 

 

Dewinter is now in a foxhole with some of his men. On the radio someone wants to speak with the commander. The aircraft squadron leader, Falcon one. He requests the location of what he terms ‘air defence.’

 

The captain, the portable device to his ear, can only respond in urgent terms, ‘Listen up, we got infantry to my front and there’s a mortar out there putting holes in my base. I see something but I’ll put the FAC back on. I don’t know air defence stuff.’

 

The exchange of fire continues on the ground.

 

The base commander had only one thing to go on, the vehicles barely an hour back. But it’d be up to Bouchard, Forward air controller, responsible for directing the help, to explain. Day’s light revealed grey smoke trails, the ends of which terminate at points in the ground several thousand feet away.

 

The coordinates, a geographic location, are passed to the pilot as a series of numbers, in turn uploaded to the electronic brains of guided weapons. 

 

Overhead a large number of aircraft circle and once the information inputted to weapons, change course toward the battle.

 

Before anyone could be rescued, the SAMs must be neutralized. Developed over years, the idea was hit them from afar. Standoff weapons. The first leaves an aircraft’s hard point. 

 

In response the ground ignites from a rocket blast, followed by more from different locations. Bouchard, ‘Falcon one heads up, you got angry missiles racing your way.’

‘10-4. We’re taking them out outside their range. Sit tight.’

 

To human eyes rockets blast off with great acceleration, enshrouding its launcher in grey smoke and sand. It’s true, supersonic speeds are attained in seconds.

 

Boom. Each one accompanied by a light’s flash, the ear splitting sound could be heard by the soldiers, seconds into the SAM’s flight. Many for the ears. The planes were to be kept safely out of range for now, since the projectiles were first in…and be targets. Most incoming had airframes sliced into by exploding metal warhead fragments when the rocket at close range.

 

Interlocking air defence of missiles: Russian built SA 3, 11, 17 – the wall. As if more convincing were needed the wronged nation was bound and determined to impede the bases’ best defence – air power. Radars switch on intermittently and attackers watching for one would suddenly have another try to acquire his plane from another direction. The launchers indicated SAM positions around the base.

 

A SAM, surface-to-air missile, is usually a guided rocket, ground launched, intended to destroy planes and other missiles.

 

They’d bested the first wave.

 

The enemy infantry advance skilfully: rush forward, drop belly first and give cover fire for the next man to advance some feet and repeat. The desert floor bereft of cover such as bush and concealment like a gully, was no deterrent. 

 

These men send armour plated ATVs – all terrain vehicles, toward the base. Which required a not insignificant level of bravery for a man must drive it a bit to get it started, then jump off. The gate was not needed.

 

Small arms bullets ping off it as it steadily approaches troops. To be more accurate HESCO MIL. On contact detonates. Surprising the defenders.

Six others follow and begin covering the couple hundred feet. A portion of the westerners knowing what to expect, flee from the wall when bullets fail and the small vehicle is headed near them.

 

A member of the occupying force to a statement responds these guys don’t do suicide, too secular. The vehicles unmanned.

 

Two never reach, one exploding and another swerving in a crash from defensive gunfire. Four make their own holes.

 

Air defence versus attack planes. This occasion AD did its part: let the soldiers get close. All the hi tech wasn’t going to halt the inexorable.

 

Mortars at last ceased, but only to prevent fratricide. The perimeter was breached and men pour inside. The thermal saw it too Lucens and others in the bunker can attest.

 

Falcon one, Falcon one,’ calls an alarmed Bouchard, ‘do you read? We are breached!’

 

Unexpectedly spotted by a western soldier is a rifle’s barrel, followed by the rest of an enemy from nowhere, there is distinct Arabic chatter. One silently raised and points a machine gun, while walking forward, unleashing a steady stream of lead, the muzzle flashing, forcing his enemy back – only by fearsome combat, the kind of medieval range so close, putting your very existence on the line, you see the other person’s eyes or smell them was the penetration sealed or was it?

 

Small arms is a determining factor, not aircraft. Speaking of which, whilst battle raged in the base, the second wave of precision guided munitions arrive and SAMs blasted off to meet. Ear splitting booms again in several moments. 

Each side suffer casualties on the ground.

 

Still the attackers hadn’t truly pressed the momentum. A deliberate pull back. A point was the objective of all the effort. No need exhausting oneself in utterly levelling the place when satchel charges would – base soldiers begin to advance after the retreating enemy. Sixth sense makes a soldier gasp, looking around he and fellow soldiers spot a cloth bag in a rush the yell is given pull back. The group of soldiers do just that in a hurry. In short order massive booms accompanied by yellow blasts tear the base in several places. Because the attackers only advanced part way into the contested facility, was only partially destroyed.

 

An infrared view. The source is the nose imager of a flying PGM, night would’ve been no impediment. Objects are getting bigger slowly. A SAM site is being resolved. As if confirmation were needed, the reddish video broadcast to a cockpit, shows an unmistakable smoke trail emanating from a launch vehicle. The operator nudged a control stick, in response the cross shaped crosshair centered on the launcher as the weapon made a course change as commanded – bigger the image got. Then a fuzzy screen resembling a distorted TV station – downed before impact.

 

More booms. A desperate check with the squadron leader indicates the air jocks were up against it. The leader could be heard groaning from G forces on the radio. 

 

Command decision. The commander decides to take the fight to the enemy. He lays out his plan with military lingo, to convey information in the shortest possible time. A part of the force was dispatched to knock out a SAM, enabling hoped air support. Argument is the enemy is retreating are overruled: they could try any manner of follow-ups and most of all they had to pay.

 

Inside Dewinter, though knowing he and his men were occupiers still thought of the plan because his warrior spirit accepted nothing less.

 

Low efficiency aside, an air force munition comes to land beside a SAM command vehicle, hurling it skyward, the sound carries far. Sheer amount of PGMs – precision guided munitions - means leakers.

 

The squad eight strong, cautious as they dare, move out towards a SAM site’s collection of vehicles, needless to say must not befall any unwelcome encounter. A radio man has voice communication with pilots, who would be Bouchard because of his training and in turn made the squad leader. Captured RPGs, rocket propelled grenades accompany.

 

The sky is crisscrossed by grey smoke trails, sometimes they’d snap their heads, attracted by a distant launch flash, the meteor ascending the sky. The tiny force would spot ATVs – small, light, emitting little heat, ideal for destroying the safety of the base.

 

The sun continued rising.

 

Minutes on foot to reach. They’re at the site. His troops are eager to do it and get out of there.

‘Halt,’ came Bouchard’s voice. He gets annoyed pushback. His stare affixed on the vehicle in front. He gets an aggravated, What’s the problem?

 

He says a decoy.

 

Funny their current location is not that of the hot vehicles seen on thermal earlier. A rubber inflatable to fool any air force.

 

The planes ran low on ammo. They’ll need some for the enemy infantry not only their covering SAMS and the ground battle wasn’t over. The flight leader resorted to gambling: make a run at low level, high speed to reduce enemy detection range and time to shoot respectively, the launchers would be expending a lot themselves by now – a deadly calculation ETA to target, room for evading and successfully bombing at close range.

 

Their very munitions must run the gauntlet of SAMS and now the planes themselves.

 

In the sky the air commander aware of the grave situation, radioed any crew remaining with ordinance form up with his plane. A good bit do, then instructs they’ll hit the deck, the planes drop attitude from thousands of feet to a perilous fifty feet above the desert floor and scream toward the battle.

 

Infuriated, duped by the decoy, the small team rush, following vehicular sand tracks to what they realize is just one of the real sites. Their march brought them here in minutes.

 

Covering the distance to verify if real is perilous. They lie on their bellies, Bouchard to relief gives the go ahead. Five of the squad bend the knee and take aim. The commandeered RPGs slam home adding to the destruction’s tally. The men are exultant.

 

Bullets whizz by them through the air.

 

More PGMs are inbound. In a wow moment the remaining air defence launchers swivel, only to unleash a fearsome barrage streaking in the sky. Almost all launchers were lightened. Largest smoke and fire spectacle yet and shortly thereafter many ear piercing booms and flashes of interceptions in the sky, witnessed by each belligerent. Standoff weapons struck a couple targets.

 

Overall the SAM crews performed well. The Russian equipment did what was paid for. Many PGMs were swatted.

 

It was all but brief respite for Bouchard and company relentlessly under fire from outnumbering infantry. Then there was the roar of aircraft engines. Falcon one and the rest clearly flew near the base.

 

Dewinter, ‘The curtain falls.’

 

One of many jets are over the battle zone. Atop its tracked launcher the structure above slowly swivels, an SA 11’s Fire Dome radar is tracking, a rocket with a whoosh leaves the quad launcher, it flies a big arc, that is climbed then curved downward, made obvious flaming exhaust and directly after a grey smoke trail. The jet expels aluminium chaff; the weapon veers away and detonates harmlessly.

 

Once close suddenly the aircraft climb several hundred feet to better target their weapons.

 

Only air support can save them, which Bouchard calls. The amount of aircraft was large and leakers would present themselves. One screams in aiming to bomb in support of the beleaguered men, pumping flares all the while – one last surprise. A plume, trailing a grey smoke trail, merged with the aircraft. An SA 8 Gecko for any leakers past the big systems. Heat decoying flares are useless to a radar guided SAM.

 

Wreathed in flames plummets to the ground, slamming upon the bunch of enemy troops.

 

A jet nose down, perforates a control van by canon fire, damaging it.

 

The nation had accomplished the aim of sending a message of steel, aimed not so much at enemy troops but their civilian countrymen back home. Battle was pretty much concluded by time of the air force’s penetration and SAMS made it hazardous for them to stay for any extended period. The enemy infantry made a successful withdrawal. For all intents and purposes the battle was over.

 

Each government give statements. Needless to say the battle made headlines. The attackers claim moral response to the aggression of the other, who was never invited. They are set on breaking shackles.

 

Jaeran alsahra' equals the raid’s name, Desert Scarab. Theorem kill enough enemy, their home public and leaders would question the cost. The western government gave justification for its presence and vowed assured vengeance.


Submitted: November 30, 2019

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hullabaloo22

You did a great job of bringing the conflict to life in this, dreamscriber.

Sat, November 30th, 2019 10:06pm

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Its like my 3rd at least war genre in the series. Had an old interest in missiles plus have a some war books in development.
Supposed to be finishing my novella but will pen a next short - this time magical girl.

Sat, November 30th, 2019 2:40pm

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