Chapter Two Thousand Twenty-Three
15th October 1970
Over the Saxon-Bohemian Frontier
The new plane was almost invisible in the gathering dusk as Ben was flying through the mountains at seven hundred fifty kilometers per hour almost straight west. This was the proscribed speed that they had been told to maintain during the mission briefing. They had also been ordered to maintain radio silence during this mission because it was supposed to be a simulated combat mission and they didn’t want the enemy to know they were coming. That made things a bit hairy in that Ben knew that his wingman was only a few hundred meters away and that made coordination difficult. Two airplanes trying to occupy the same space by accident due to one of them having made a sudden turn was a bad thing.
Ben knew that the latest Black Knight was a bit livelier in flight than the Pfeil had been. A faster roll rate most certainly. What it lacked was the instant power that the later versions of the Pfeil had in abundance and the internal bomb bay made it incredibly slick even with a full load of ordnance. Ben could tell that the handling of the Black Knight was considerably altered with two drop tanks and practice bombs on all the hardpoints. He had yet to take her out over the North Sea and really seen what she could do, supposedly she could nearly match the Pfeil clean at high altitude. Ben needed to see it in order to believe it.
What Ben didn’t quibble with was the paint scheme that Arado had done for them. It was two-tone, matte black with the underside painted grey. It reminded Ben of a shark, which was entirely the intention when they had discussed it at the assembly plant. The Balkenkreuz roundels on the wings and sides of the fuselage were ghostly symbols outlined in white lines along with the Unit markings. A fiery black Pegasus, the latest representation of the winged chess piece had been painted on the side of the nose. Only the small City flag of Berlin and blue Maltese Cross that told the world that Ben had been inducted into the Order of the Pour le Mérite painted on the sides of the vertical stabilizer broke with that theme.
“Mind keeping above the tops of these mountains” Wim said over the intercom, sounding annoyed. That much was back to normal.
“If you didn’t want to have a thrill you would have stayed at your day job” Ben said as the display told him if he needed to pull up, level off, or nose down.
The radar was allowing him to stay only a hundred or so meters off the deck over rough terrain. From Wim’s perspective it was one of those sorts of things that worked until it didn’t and by the time that they figured it out, they would have already smashed into the side of a mountain. Considering that Wim worked as a Computer Programmer for the City of Berlin, his general distrust of technology was probably warranted. With the “Moving Map” used to navigate, Wim could see exactly what the elevations of the mountains were around them which probably didn’t help his sunny disposition. Still, they had been told that in the evolving combat environment they should expect to find themselves staying low and fast just to keep themselves alive.
“Whatever” Wim said, “We are coming up on our next waypoint, turn on a course of 350 when we reach it.”
Ben saw the kilometers tick down until they reached zero as he flew over the crest of a ridge, then he rolled the Orkan into a tight turn and dropped into the valley that ran more or less in the direction they wanted to go in.
They continued north as Wim guided them through the designated waypoints until they reached the target. On the outer wing pylons and the belly were a number of the practice version of the Aerodynamische Sprengbombe 500, an updated and improved version of the old SC500 that was necessitated by no longer having an internal bomb bay. It was for practice because it was filled with concrete rather than an explosive mixture. There was also a version of the AS500 that was free fall nuclear bomb, but they weren’t supposed to talk about that.
“10 kilometers to target” Wim said calmly. Once he was focused on the task at hand, he was all business. It was strange considering that with his distrust of technology, he didn’t seem to have a problem with the autopilot essentially flying the plane on an attack run.
“Do you have visual?” Ben asked, knowing that Wim would be scanning the ground ahead with a specially designed Sperber device that allowed them to see through the darkness.
“Got it” Wim said as he locked the targeting computer on the designated target. “Separation in 3… 2… 1…”
Ben felt the plane lurch slightly as the bombs automatically dropped away from the Orkan at the precise instant needed to hit the target. As they sped away from the target, gaining altitude Ben knew what would happen next. Overnight, grunts from the Luftwaffe Training Cadres would be digging the “bombs” up and sending a report to Headquarters about if they had been on target. It was the sort of thing that was done to develop character in the new recruits, both Ben and Wim had done a great deal of that years earlier before Korea.
Ben heard Wim laughing. “I think I nailed it” He said.
“We’ll know tomorrow” Ben said, “Now, do you know how to tell if we have enough fuel in this thing to get us back to Berlin-Brandenburg?”
“That isn’t funny” Wim replied.