The Empire's Twilight:Target: Destiny
by Tony Wilkins
April 17th 1986
13 Miles West of Fenling
The Q-5 was based on the Soviet MiG-19 and was developed for the ground attack role. Lieutenant Wa Chen of the People's Liberation Army Air Force or PLAAF never imagined he would be flying this aircraft over Taiwan. He was one of a two-plane formation heading for a column of retreating Taiwanese troops. The past few days had been a virtual rout of the Taiwanese armed forces. The more technologically advanced Taiwanese had hurt the PLA in the first five days but since then they were worn down and with no US support it was now only a matter of time before Taiwan finally fell under the Red banner.
"There they are," crackled the voice over the radio of Captain Ping flying the lead Q-5. "Straight ahead. Committing!"
"I see them," replied Chen. "Following you in."
Chen switched his weapon panel to ARM and selected the air-to-ground rockets hanging underneath his wings on the outermost pylons. On the primitive Heads-Up Display or HUD a round circle appeared. This was effectively the crosshairs for the rockets.
Ping's aircraft rolled right and began to descend. Chen followed him through the maneuver as both aircraft turned their noses on the column of vehicles trundling up a desolate road. There were nine vehicles in total. At the front was a single M60 tank, no doubt put there to provide protection for the softer non-armoured vehicles following behind it. Five were large trucks crammed full of tired and demoralized troops. Dotted between them were three small jeeps. They appeared to have no protection against air attack.
"I will hit the tank to the centre of the column," said Ping to Chen. "You take the rear vehicles."
"Acknowledged," replied Chen.
Chen watched as Ping's Q-5 appeared to slowly pull away as the lead pilot reduced the steepness of his attack so as to target the lead vehicles. As they passed through nine thousand feet Chen could see the vehicles in his targeting circle but he was too high to fire. Air speed was increasing as they dived which was a good thing because it meant he could pull away quicker if the enemy troops return fire. The upper area of the circle was just passing over the last vehicle, a jeep, and so Chen pulled back on the control stick slightly to raise the circle over the middle of the convoy. As he mentally prepared himself for the attack he pictured hitting the last five vehicles. The rockets were to land in a line heading back towards the end of the convoy. With the airspeed increasing the altitude was rapidly decreasing. Four thousand feet passed and before long the needle was encroaching on three thousand. One and a half thousand feet and he would be cleared to fire.
Chen's mouth began to dry. His heartbeat quickened. This was his first mission of the war and this was the first time he was going to kill someone. When the fighting began he was stationed on the troubled border with India but with the extent of the losses sustained by the PLA he was transferred to the Taiwan front. This was it. The culmination of all his training. No, it was more than that. This was his destiny. He was fighting to reclaim land that was rightfully Beijing's and therefore should be part of the People's Republic of China. He was making history. Suddenly it all became bigger than just a single mission.
Two thousand feet passed and his trigger finger was beginning to itch. Nineteen hundred feet. Eighteen hundred feet. It felt like his heart was about to explode in his chest. Seventeen hundred. Sixteen hundred. This was it. Fifteen hundred. He squeezed the trigger.
The rockets raced out of the conical front of the pods hanging under the wings. Each one was three inches in diameter and left long grey smoke trails as they burned their short fuel load running away from the aircraft. The hurtling rockets drew long lines in the sky ahead of the Q-5 as they headed for their targets. After three seconds the last rocket was fired and Chen pulled up and away, vapour surging across the aircraft as it punched through the sound barrier. Ping had already expended his rockets and was climbing ahead of him.
The first of Ping's rockets impacted against the M60 causing little damage but severing the tanks tracks thus bringing it to a halt. The others landed across the first half of the convoy. Chen's rockets landed barely a second later and finished the job. The result was chaos and horror. The trucks were overfilled with weary troops and were now burning with dead Taiwanese soldiers fueling the flames. Some who were still alive rolled out of the trucks, some missing body parts, only to get run over by the following vehicle.
With the tank stopped the following vehicles, most of whose driver's were themselves dead or severely injured, began crashing into the back of it before being sandwiched by the vehicle behind that. From those who survived the initial attack their piercing screams seem to drowned out the crackle of the flames. It was brutal but from five thousand feet Chen looked down at the carnage with a sense of satisfaction.