Kaenura, Navy Yacht Club, Inner Harbour.
21 November 2039/3059.
The Yacht Club had been an Institution in the Inner Harbour since the 1860s. It still was, and in fact had a relatively more important role now. With the lack of interest in a major attack on the capitol now clearly established—though multiple command aircraft and ships would be permanently orbiting and the Imperial Family had been dispersed throughout zones of the country far from combat—the Empress and the Reichskanzler had agreed that it was most appropriate for both of them, old women, to remain in the capitol.
The Crimson Guard and other protective services had protested against the Imperial Palace, however, as it was an obvious target for a surprise decapitation strike; so was the Reichskanzlerei. Therefore it had been decided that it was most appropriate for them to both be in residence in the Navy Yacht Club; and then shift to other locations in the city, mostly private luxury clubs, from whence the internal communications grid of Kaenura could easily allow secured communications with the various government ministries responsible for the war effort. In a few weeks they’d shift to the Jewish Benevolent Club of Little Germany, for instance.
The two women were sitting with some of their officers where the windows of the grand neo-Baroque structure showed the continuous rain of the Monsoon outside, the empty inner harbour where the museum ships of the Empire had been. Even the old screw SOL had been towed away to some quiet fishing cove. Prithvirani
was swinging at anchor in a fishing harbour of the Kali Archipelago; Keroljhis could not quite remember where. Settsu
was at yet another.
“What do you think the world you will create will be like afterwards, Reichskanzler?” The Empress sipped from a glass of madeira—damnit all, of course, but there wouldn’t be any more for quite some time, yet the cellars were at least quite large—and looked across with still lively eyes. “I am very confident of our victory, though I am, personally, not sure of the world that my daughters shall be leading us into.”
“It is one much more hostile to democracy, for starters, Your Gracious Majesty,” Keroljhis answered promptly. She was sharp about such matters, and not afraid to talk at length. “The Inner Sphere proves that. It is the fad of the ages, and though the Phrygian Cap may yet be donned and the call to form the popular battalions echo across squares and city blocks, I do not think its predominance will survive without some check in the face of such a great mass of people. It is truth be told that mass of people that concerns me; we have been reduced from a minority to an oddity by this other dimension that we shall be permanently in contact with.”
“It is worrying. You would have us expand.”
“There may be peoples who are receptive to our way of life out among the Stars, and the Clans are an obvious target for conquest. More trivially I will raise the flag over Bali and Lombok for good before I die, and perhaps Borneo as well, to the succor of the non-Muslim peoples of that island, Your Gracious Majesty.”
A little smile. “It’s so quaint. They haven’t even landed yet and we’re already preparing for the world after we’ve shown them off. Thank you, Keroljhis. It is the kind of confidence that we very much need to show to the people, and I thank you for that. You’ve been a dynamo here, and staying behind was the right thing for both of us.”
“Thank you, Your Gracious Majesty. I am just pleased to have the chance to lead the nation in War. It is an opportunity to serve with the duties I had always wished, since I was a young girl listening to those danger and horror fraught stories of the Second Great War. We will prevail, and we must prevail. It is a matter of spirit.”
“And spirit we may blessedly account for ourselves a surfeit, whilst our enemies have so little. It will have to matter a great deal against their war-machines, though….”
An aide quietly approached from their command information centre, and saluted. “Your Gracious Majesty, Reichskanzler. With Generalfeldmarschall sri Bulanti’s compliments, thirty space-atmospheric craft of varying tonnage have been detected descending from the atmosphere. Radar tracks confirm they are headed for Garudaasti and are Ice Hellion signatures. She invites your presence to receive reports as they take place from Integrated Air Defence Command.”
The two women exchanged a look, and Keroljhis smiled politely and spoke for her by the unspoken signal. “Just a moment, Hauptmann. Our presence won’t make a whit of difference, and it’s a crime to waste madeira these days. I trust Feldmarschalleutnant Tykatiui to have the situation well in hand.”
“As you wish.” She saluted again, and stepped back, the Empress with a twinkle in her eyes as she looked to Kerjhi.
“And here I thought you were going to suggest it would leave us with time for a rubber of whist…”
“Pfft. Far too Britisch. Might be time for Schnapps, though. I imagine the missiles were already flying by the time she got here, though, Your Gracious Majesty. Some will only work in the upper atmosphere. I would not worry; micromanagement in warfare is an American addiction. We have professionals.”Central Integrated Air Defence Command, ADB Jhakamapur.
21 November 2039/3059.
Feldmarschalleutnant Ngaio Tykatiui was on the dapper side for Kaetjhasti Maori, dark hair and proudly dusky Polynesian skin inset with innumerable tattoos, folded up in a chair in the enormously shock-reinforced Air Defence Base which had been designed to withstand 25 MT nuclear warheads detonating in the ground above. Personally, despite the weapons of the enemy, she was not incredibly concerned for her own life.
To rigidly keep things fair for the sake of the batchall, the command facility was located within the territory to be defended; otherwise there would have been multiple backups. So were all the engaging batteries. This limited them to about one-third of the firepower they could notionally produce, more like half in practice as they did not have non-nuclear warheads sufficient for all missiles. There were three ABM facilities defining the outer points of the triangle, all on mountains above the low farming valleys. Those were now evacuated from their usual grain-growing activities, the towns abandoned, the houses and farms abandoned, the canals laying empty and forgotten with the gates open, untended, patrolled only by heavily armed river monitors. That was part of the plan, too.
Ngaio’s part of the plan was a different one entirely. The first part. Under her control was anything the Kaetjhasti Empire had been able to position in time to meet the threat--two weeks of desperate effort had to serve there--as well as pre-existing assets. The huge network of ground-based ABM radars and orbiting AWACS aircraft were already giving good data. Thirty very large spacecraft entering the atmosphere covered by approximately two hundred fighters.
In comparison she was able to defend with eight squadrons of TVI-500s and thirty-two squadrons of TVI-260Hs. More uniquely the strategic bombers had been provided to her as backup. She had 144 TKhB-300s going airborne even as the situation defined itself, though they were not under her direct control. The TVI-500s, fueled with hydrogen, were burning their way into intercept positions and building speed to in excess of Mach 5 from disparate bases; the TVI-260Hs would be the reliable second tier. Air Force ground attack aircraft would not be under her control, either, which included not just the big TKhB-300s but also a large number of other ground attack aircraft.
Her position as supreme commander of the air defences meant that her personal part of the war was refined and clinical. A cold room, filled with electronics; hot coffee, tea, and snacks. Computer displays and controllers looking intently. It was far removed from the suffering of the soldiers in the islands and shortly enough, on the fields of their homeland. One of staff aides, Major Kalimdha, interrupted the tense reverie as she stepped up with a salute. It was time to begin.
“Your Honour,” she offered. “Particle batteries are requesting permission to open fire. The enemy ASFs will be within their tracking ability for a relatively short period of time.”
“Inform them that the engagement may commence, then.” She finished her coffee and rose to the plotting table.
“PAR tracking good. Incoming enemy force is currently over Fiji in Air Defence Grid A-2080 at an altitude of one hundred and fifty kilometres. Particle batteries receiving good tracking data and preparing to engage. Electrical grid power transfer backup is good.”
Ngaio sucked in her breath at that. Each of the three particle beam accelerators drew 12 GW of power while firing. That was developed by six nuclear reactors in a bank of eight, and the Ice Hellions taking those out would give the country three Fukushimas in a night. They were fortunately
located far enough from the nuclear plants that their inevitable likelihood of being knocked out of action was not going to cause such damage. Nonetheless, a small risk had to be taken.
“Engagement commencing. Firing protocols resolved; tracking good; High-Alt intercept runs clear of firing tracks.”
“First ASF targets have disappeared from radar. Good hits.” This dry language reported that the massive particle beams, intended for large-sky arc tracking of incoming ballistic missiles to render the technology useless to the modern era—there were seven installations in Kaetjhasti, five of which were finished, at a cost of five billion rupiyah each—were slicing their way through Ice Hellion ASFs like they didn’t exist with raw power to make up for their relative primitiveness.
“Major jamming is now distorting our radar picture. Last pictures indicated the ASFs breaking across into evasive patterns in their descent approaches,” the next report came in.
“Switch to IR detection and direct grid power into the primary PARs to overcome jamming,” Ngaio ordered as Major Kalimdha sucked in her breath. Just like that, the electrical grid across the whole continent of Garudaasti would be going down as dozens and dozens of nuclear powerplants had their power sucked away down greedy high-tension lines toward massive phased array radar installations which were hardened against EMP and intended to track the kind of attack which had killed hundreds of millions of people in China and Russia eight years before--hundreds of ICBMs--and wipe it from the sky before it come down amongst the hearths of their Motherlines.
“We’re now collating and correlating data across the computer systems,” one of the Watch Warrants reported from her interfaces with the huge supercomputers of the base. “Computer prediction is giving us reasonably good targeting data from the raw reports. Even the PARs are fuzzy here but with computer discernment we are separating targets from bad ECM derived radar ghosts, Your Honour. Those engines show up to both IR and UV scanners despite the cloud layer, and we can still track our own aircraft.”
“Can we get paints on the ASFs anymore?”
“No, Your Honour. But the DropShips show up clearly enough for the particle batteries to resume firing. With your permission?” She got a sharp nod in return and transmitted the directive by computer.
“Particle batteries painting heavy targets… Good engagement, we have constant contacts... Heat blooms visible to tracking stations…”
It was a job they had all prepared for, over the course of years or decades. Yet it seemed to lack some of the urgency of an actual nuclear war. The Ice Hellions were explicitly not coming with nukes against them, and as the particle beams bore into their targets, causing damage and eating through armour and simply staying on track with continuous beams as dozens of gigawatts of power disappeared from the grid, and families all across the continent went deep into their fallout shelters with stockpiled food and masks, there still seemed to be just a fundamental lack of urgency because of that which nagged a bit, for the stakes were still deadly serious.
“We’re approaching minimum effective altitude for LARI-78H and LARI-100 batteries, Feldmarschalleutnant. They’ll need to launch now to participate in the battle.”
“Give permission to the fourth, fifth, and ninth ABM brigades to commence firing.”
“High-Alt intercept squadrons now preparing approach runs.”
“Tell them to stand off while the missiles go in and then follow the initial missile strikes, Major.”
“Yes, Your Honour.”
Explosive packs blew off the covers to missile silos at the northern and southern ends of the combat zone. Massive three-stage missiles erupted out of the heavily fortified siloes with compressed gas charges and then their rocket motors ignited and blew them toward the sky, steadily accelerating under the massive cloud and ash layer of the monsoon and the huge trade-wind driven forest fires in Papua to the Northwest.
The LARI-78H missiles were uprated versions of 1990s replacements for Cold War ABM systems. Improved versions of the Kaetjhasti competitor to Spartan II, they were designed for nuclear warheads, but had always been intended to be used with non-nuclear warheads too for intercepting space debris, and these were essentially short range “Hohe Reaktionsgeschwindigkeit” missiles that replaced the normal 5 MT neutron warhead payload. Under the cover of the cloud layer the missiles steadily accelerated to speeds of up to Mach 7 into the stratosphere. A total of one hundred and sixty LARI-78H missiles had been launched. Of course, they had removed the warheads from the kinetic-kill vehicles guarding Nagaasti to make this possible, leaving only nuclear missiles there; but the agreements of war would in principle leave the only threats to cities by the Star Adders as Aerospace fighters, and they had SAMs against those.
Their onboard tracking immediately began as they searched into the sky above for the blazon IR signatures of the descending DropShips. Ships they could have easily killed with 5 MT neutron warheads, or at least rendered hors d’combat. Now they had to survive to do some relatively uncertain damage. The Ice Hellions saw them after they cleared the cloud layer, and climbing they had their own brilliant plumes across their sensors.
The ABM missiles were not particularly maneouvrable and were instead designed to obtain orbit as fast as possible. They were coming on strong toward the Hellions and it was nonetheless enough of a threat that they opened up with everything they had. Lasers tore through the missiles. The missiles had been reflectively coated against laser fire, to be sure, and so they initially survived being painted. They were not however designed to dodge, and though it would trouble the Hellion defences they kept on coming despite the lasers being targeted on them, burn-throughs with incredible propellant explosions started to quickly follow.
Before the missiles were within the 30km needed to launch their payloads, one hundred and fifty had been engaged by the Ice Hellions’ defences and one hundred and thirty-five had been shot down or decoyed away by the ECM to positions from which they could not successfully attack the DropShips. Then there was the nasty surprise. Erupting from the missiles, which were themselves at full thrust still as they were well below maximum altitude, were six and a half tonne seeker-interceptors with jet-head nozzles on their steering fins. Arcing through the sky they were accelerating at 400g’s with their solid-fueled nitroglycerine rocket motors, steering at up to 60g’s lateral acceleration.
Acceleration lasted for two seconds before first stage burnout. The second stage achieved the same acceleration axially with 300g acceleration laterally, providing final targeting. The technology had been developed in the 1960s; the lack of the sustained nuclear threat in the universe that the Clans had come from meant it hadn’t been aggressively pursued.
Their lasers tried to track, and missed, as the IR tracking on the second stage warheads lined them up with their targets in a mere one second of continuing burn before they fell silent, too. At that point the kill vehicles were less than four kilometers from their targets at a closing speed of 14,000m/s. They were now going straight in, but the defensive lasers had milliseconds in which to respond, and it was insufficient. The 400kg impactors delivered a prodiguous amount of energy, on the order of one hundred 16in naval rounds colliding with the target simultaneously. Twenty-five of them hit across sixteen of the DropShips and genuinely shuddered them, punching through armour and damaging internal systems.
On one of the spheroid dropships, the penetrator had buried itself in the primary thrust engine. The IceHellions could only watch as the engines went dead and the DropShip started to fall out of the sky. It was a sickening, rather incredible feeling that these barbaric primitives had just put one-thirtieth of the invasion force out of commission. The DropShips were now maneouvring as hard as they were able, trying to keep the particle beams off them as they sought to add more damage to the hits from the interceptor missiles.
They already had missiles and bombs going in against the particle batteries, and shortly enough they ceased firing on the DropShips to fire on their incoming attackers, defending themselves to survive and being taken out of the equation for the moment in so doing. Their firing had nonetheless left long, blackened and melted scars across the armour and hulls of the landers. And now the second wave of missiles, the LARI-100s, were coming up hard. They had been designed to use kinetic kill warheads from the start, and had some limited maneouvring ability.
There were only 96 LARI-100s coming up from three anti-ballistic missile batteries, but they were maneouvring and able to reflect the lasers to a limited extent. Each one also had two of the space-capable terminal interceptors for cluster intercept of pre-MIRV ICBMs. The ships were maneouvring very radically, and 50 of the kinetic-kill interceptors were successfully launched from the missiles, the others duped or shot down, their penaids of minimal use against Clan technology. The Clan DropShips were ready for them this time, but the performance against the kinetic-kill interceptors was still brutal. Only fourteen were shot down in the three seconds of useful intercept time even with full preparation for the threat.
Thirty-six hit their targets and two DropShips were knocked from the sky with hits driving through their main thrust motors during the critical loss final braking phase in the upper atmosphere. Systems damage was starting to pile up on the other DropShips, too, as the attack masked the approach of the TVI-500s coming in hard and doing final IR tracking of the huge heat paints at altitude of the DropShips. Each one was ready to salvo ten ARI-96H missiles, and there were ninety-six of them coming in from four compas points at forty degrees separation. The Aerospace fighters were game, but most of them could not actually accelerate to the speeds required to intercept TVI-500s while still committed to an orbital descent.
They also started tracking with their missiles from extreme ranges of 200km. The non-Spheroid dropships were now maneouvring as hard as they could, but the Ice Hellions had long favoured large spheroid DropShip types and most of them were not so luxurious, or lucky. Return fire was nonetheless prodiguous from the Aerospace fighters while the TVI-500s salvoed off their missiles, rocket motors bringing them toward Mach 7 in the upper atmosphere, the Skylon derived interceptors being above their descending enemies at this point, but the Monsoon clouds backlighting and reflecting the energy of the heat from the JumpShips, so that the missiles diving on them wouldn’t miss even if they were spoofed.
The Aerospace fighters could and did intercept, however, and missile volleys were traded as the TVI-500s tried to make it back to base after their assault, ARI-96H’s coming in and hitting multiple aerospace fighters with the force designed to swat a Tu-160 out of the sky with a single hit. Most of them were decoyed by the quick maneouvres of the Aerospace fighters and aggressive countermeasures. The ones going in for the DropShips didn’t have the power to inflict crippling or knockout damage; instead, they added damage, taking out weapons systems and sensors and contributing to the level of damage inflicted by particle battery paints and kinetic-kill interceptors. Nine more Aerospace fighters were shot down, bringing the number to 17 in total; 19 TVI-500s were lost in the attack alone to the Aerospace fighters attacking them, and 77 returned safely to their dispersal bases. With losses double what the Aerospace fighters had taken despite their speed advantage, it was not the best showing.
“We’re losing even the PARs, Your Honour.” Major Kalimdha looked a bit worried now, as the battle wore on and the entirety of the control staff was sucking on coca leaf to stay fully alert between stern draughts of nicotine infused tea. “As they go below thirty thousand meters and come across the coast the clutter is helping their ECM and complicating our IR reception picture, and with the longer we’re painting them with the PARs the better they’re getting at jamming them. We can still get targets, but only because of the IR stations in Vanautu and the Kermadecs providing triangulation for the computers now that they’ve passed them.”
“What’s the good news?” Ngaio was chewing coca leaf just like everyone else, and watching as the invaders transited across the coast, now less than a thousand kilometres of ground traverse from their primary landing zones. The fact that there were only twenty-seven DropShips instead of thirty was certainly comforting, but she had been hoping that they would have done better.
“By drawing the Aerospace fighters into pursuit dogfights at thirty-five to forty thousand meters they’re now above the DropShips they were supposed to be defending, and no attack which point-defence interceptors has been unable to deal with has developed around the primary Air Defence Brigade bases. The Particle batteries are still intact, and we’ve been salvoing point-defence ABM missiles to deal with most of the incoming from the DropShips themselves. Siloes have held up well to the impacts that have taken place.”
“Have the Particle batteries resume targeting the DropShips until the Arjuna Ghats mask them. Make sure that the Sarangas understand they’re not to attempt further missile engagements of the DropShips; it’s clearly worthless with 96’s. Let’s focus on knocking down those Aerospace fighters for the next round instead.”
“Understood, Your Honour.” She stepped aside to transit the latest set of general engagement instructions as the particle batteries would once again start painting their targets at full power. Holding onto three DropShips for as many seconds as they possible could, trying to reacquire the same targets if contact was lost. Finally, one of the targets, already hit by three non-critical impacts from the kinetic-kill vehicles, a half a dozen ARI-96H’s and having been painted by one of the particle batteries twice before, was struck with enough damage to kill its engines and dropped into the foothills of the Arjuna Ghats from an altitude of 20,000 meters, leaving a massive crater and tremedous explosion, unlike the last three which had gone into deep ocean.
Then the lasers lost their fix again. “Launch Midcourse interceptors,” Ngaio ordered, in congruence with a plan developed long before. Arcing high up through the protective monsoon cloud layers, the two hundred and forty midcourse interceptors would loft above
the DropShips as they came in over the Arjuna Ghats and then drop their kinetic kill interceptors onto them from the top.
It was a new attack pattern, but the Clans still adapted to it admirably. They scythed their way through the interceptors relentlessly, and at the end only another forty of the kinetic kill vehicles found their targets. It was a miserable intercept rate for the Kaetjhasti, though it proved able enough to overcome one more DropShip with damage enough to blast it out of the sky. In every case of engagement for the Ice Hellions so far the same problem at been present: The Monsoon clouds were preventing the lasers on the DropShips from effectively targeting the missiles until they were too close to kill them all before they launched their terminal kinetic-kill interceptors, and the brute force power of those designs was not something they had been fully prepared for.
Now they had exhausted their supply of kinetic kill interceptors. The normally nuclear-tipped short-range interceptors guarding the bases were simply colliding their standard missile bodies into the incoming with an empty warhead slot replaced with a slug of steel. It mattered less as the DropShips crossed over the Arjuna Ghats. They would be descending into the clouds, and finally cleared themselves to fire at the defensive batteries, but also brought them within range of SAMs.
Likewise the Aerospace fighters were coming back, and they were now definitely tasked to suppress the defences, dropping as hard as they could toward low altitude. That, however, would be bringing them within range of the Sarangas. As fast as any Aerospace fighter while fighting “down and dirty” in the lower atmosphere, with their wings at full sweep, the big, lean interceptors of Tikani Sisters Aviation Ltd. charged in their squadrons, following last fixes of AWACS craft now killing their radars and going for the deck as the Aerospace fighters tried to take them out enpassant, and then switching to infrared passive scanning to try and get through the massive haze of jamming that was degrading their datalinked radars. Over the skies of Gylakha State,
84th Interceptor Regiment.
Oberst Bilima sri Kondraka was a Congolese girl adopted in the early 2000s by a noble family during the Great African War. Now; over the skies of her home, there was war again. War as it had stamped out the Ostafrika Bloc, coming ever closer; the aliens, the war in America, their allies arriving at the last moment; it was all a tumult
; blow after blow to the peace of the world, recalling the lyrics of an old English song that summed up the path from the Great War to the Second in a single verse of dread portent:
Then came surrender
Then came the peace
Then revolution out of the east
Then came the crash
Then came the tears
Then came the thirties
The nightmare years
Then came the same thing--
Mad as the moon
That watches over the plain
It always stuck with her, the way the world could simply go mad. Long ago, it had explained why she had ended up the daughter of Malay nobility, out of some Congolese village, whose name she had been too young to remember. Now it was reassuring her that she had made the right decision in life to stand as a warrior and protectress. One brave metal steed riding a jet of benzene to stand against the madness touching all she knew.
A decision that was now being duly tested. The fighting had started easily. The attacks on Papua in the greatest secrecy. Now, the warnings, the orbiting of their homeland with refueling just like as they had drilled to receive a nuclear bomber attack. And then the word that came to her
as the active flying commander of the 84th that it was time to go in against the enemy. Straight into a fog, literal and of war alike, worse than could have been expected. With their up-tuned benzene fueled engines they were comfortably on reheat at Mach 3.0 and holding it. No radars active; in the current environment she’d squawked to her formation to just turn them off.
It was hard to maintain visibility as they flew through the clouds of the monsoon, and the ash in the air might give them serious trouble with the engines, but it was worth it. Their radar detectors
were on instead, and those were going off constantly as the Ice Hellion Aerospace fighters bore in on them with combined very high closing speeds. Letting the HARI-96H missiles refine their tracks even as they were still on the launch rails, with their IR seeking heads chilled and ready to go in backup, the Kaetjhasti pilots tensely waited for their moment.
With the active radar variant having been launched by the TVI-500s at high altitude to minimal effect--almost a thousand salvoed in a perfect four-point attack with less than ten enemy fighters knocked out of the sky and more than twice that lost in return--it was the return of the older and more versatile Sarangas… With missiles that would go in after the radar signatures of the enemy at range and then switch to IR for final approach.
“Target at forty klicks, descending toward our altitude – call it twenty-one thousand meters. Missiles are resolving on their radar… Yes, lock good.”
She unflicked the firing switch and salvoed two missiles into the target as it passed their altitude, and then turned into a sharp dive, expecting an attack herself and her Indian born backseater punching decoys out as they dove. “Asp Lead, Fox Five, Fox Five.” They set the example for most of the regiment, and with good reason as enemy missiles had
been coming in. High-powered dives mostly did to shake them as the dual HARM/IR missiles went after their targets as fast as they could, diving on them as the Ice Hellions tried to regain altitude from their original ground attack roles and back up toward the missiles to outmaneouvre them and then gain the advantage on the Sarangas as they went low to dodge the missiles sent against them in turn.
The missiles were miserable in a dogfight, but they had been salvoed from range and it wasn’t quite the same thing, some of them got through, even as many did not. The Ice Hellions took losses; but she heard her own people punching out as missiles struck home and she finally snapped out of a last roll as missiles went groundward to claw back up, having lost ten of her regiment and only shot down four Aerospace fighters in return.
And then five. One of the Aerospace fighters that had gone back down as a second salvo of missiles went for it had managed to come close enough to one of the Sarangas and the savage glee of Rittmeister Aamrapali Chandrasekharan. “Asp Twelve, Fox two, Fox two, Guns!” as two wingtip mounted ARI-9Ls went straight into the tailpipe of an ASF and twin thirty revolver cannon tore into the massive armoured beast all at once, peppering it with three hundred DU 30x184mm slugs as Aamrapali defiantly emptied her magazines. The ASF turned away, losing altitude rapidly and making for an emergency landing, engines unable to keep the massive beast skyborne. As it turned out, the need to catapult off a carrier gave the Saranga a hell of a lot more alpha than an aerospace fighter, and the Kaetjhasti pilots seized on it at once.
The raw power of the aerospace fighters wasn’t something they could fight, then, but meant to go supersonic at low altitude even as a high-altitude interceptor , the Saranga had enough power to stay and play down low, and the huge and heavy aerospace fighters of up to 100 tonnes were proving themselves not nearly as invincible as they’d like to think with heavy missiles salvoed at close range and twin 30mm cannon able to do real damage—albeit only if their entire magazine capacity was exhausted in a single burst--despite the enormous armour of their enemies. Instead of being a fight to the death, it at least allowed the better part of the 84th to go home on Winchester having done some real hurt to their enemies. And they were only one of eight Interceptor regiments engaged against the Ice Hellions—whose aerospace fighters had gone into the battle outnumbered some three-to-one. Central Integrated Air Defence Command, ADB Jhakamapur.
21 November 2039/3059.
Ngaio was feeling better now, despite the damage that was piling up to her command. Staying as alert as drugs could provide—public health corps doctors were outright cutting amphetamines for the duty personnel at this point to keep them fully alert where caffeine, nicotine, and coca leaf could not suffice—she was doing her job
, and doing it better than anyone from the Inner Sphere likely would have expected in attriting the landing force.
The ABM complexes were under heavy
attack by the Aerospace fighters and the particle batteries had been knocked out in a vicious exchange of fire with the DropShips as they finally entered range, even if they had caused yet more damage to the DropShips for as long as they could track them. Nonetheless they were doing their jobs very well: the DropShips still had no direct Aerospace fighter support as they were all off tearing through the area defences--which mostly didn’t have anything to attack the enemy with now, anyway, making it a useless indulgence for the Ice Hellions--as the SAMs had always been an outer crust defence while the ABM missiles were concentrated in the interior of the country to give them more coverage with their much greater altitudes of interception. Instead nine four-vehicle transporter-erector batteries of Besipana LRFI-250 heavy SAMs had been concentrated inside the final combat zone to provide the anti-air missiles as the final layer of defence before the enemy could land.
These were still under Ngaio’s direct control, and she unleashed them simultaneously even as she detailed some of her staff to oversee the evacuation of all personnel from the ABM sites who couldn’t contribute to the defence against the Aerospace fighters. They had thrown their bolt, and there was no need for excessive casualties. As for herself, her last direct orders given, she could only watch the badly clouded tactical picture. With the AWACS planes out of the picture, most of the long range radars and IR scanners destroyed or knocked out of the picture, they were relying on fuzzy reports from mobile units.
Nonetheless, they had that one last trick. Thirty-six launchers with four missiles each caught the DropShips in a heavy SAM crossfire as they entered the clouds… And the Ice Hellions found their lasers severely degraded by the particulate matter of the immense forest fires laced into them. IR targets showing up good and clear in the cool Monsoon clouds of the summer, lances of high velocity missiles leapt up and pummeled the DropShips again and again with explosives. Every single one of them had taken damage now, and one last Overlord slipped from the sky as the virtually unimpeded missiles ripped into the formation. Another was left to make an emergency landing far from the LZs of the two groups of DropShips representing the two Galaxies of invading Ice Hellions.
For Ngaio, then, the battle was essentially over. They had destroyed 20% of the incoming enemy force before it had reached the ground, and marked the position and reported to the All-Imperial Bomber Army and Frontal Aviation on the one crash-landed DropShip, which could be aggressively attacked in its damaged condition by light strike fighters to make sure it would never take off again and its cargo was destroyed. The data was filtered through to the people who would need it for the next part of the attack on the landing sites, though, because that was the most important thing left. Ngaio accordingly turned her attention to making sure all possible resources were given to the Air Defence Interceptor Army Super Sarangas still dueling their counterparts in the skies over Garudaasti, and left the DropShips to someone else.
The All-Imperial Bomber Army was going into action. Sammiti District, Gylakha State
2100 Hours Local, November 21st 2039.
Before the insanity of the war had descended upon her, Lykhara sri Vuilati had been a Gendarmerie officer on road patrol. Her Ilahjhi polizeikreuzer was hidden in an abandoned farmhouse about fifteen klicks away, and with luck they’d make it back. Her motherline had long lived in this area, respectable gentry of the lowest order of kshatra, and fifteen years as a Gendarme had not really prepared her for what she was about to do.
In front of her was a group of dropships of the enemy, and with her enlisted patrol assistant Variti Ghulamai they had, before pushing forward to this, one of many potential LZs in the gentle terrain of the combat zone, opened the boot for a recent addition to their arsenal. It was a laser targeting pointer, and presently deactivated and positioned with plentiful camo netting, the two military policewomen were refining their trace on the landed DropShips. For whatever reason, they had been the unlucky ones whose coverage zone actually included the LZ.
The rain pounded against them, wet and miserable despite the attempts to waterproof and wear as many layers of waterproof clothing as they could. The sweat from the exertions of carrying the targeter added to the general shared misery, though neither complained. Monsoon rain was a fact of life, and one they had grown up playing in, even if no warm motherline house to return to was in the offing for them in this hour.
Now, with the data being piped back into data centres at several Air Bases around the country, they were linked into an underground fibre-optic line which ran nearby and then into data computation centres and assets throughout the country. Some of which was being broadcast to the squadrons of the All-Imperial Bomber Army’s strategic bomb corps that were coming north at speed from their orbits over the Highlands.
On those bombers, only dimly understood by Lykhara and Variti as they watched the tremendous landing equipment deploy and preparations for immediate deployment of ‘Mechs to begin, the inertial guidance systems of extremely heavy missiles normally used as carrier-killers in the anti-ship role was being refined. On land, too, batteries of Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles were being prepared from their transporter-erectors for firing on the position, as well as ground-launched cruise missiles.
The final go-ahead was given. Going to full power and pushing Mach 2.8, the huge TKhB-300s roared up from the south to reach their missile firing points of 700km distant from the launch points. Each one was carrying two of the heavy missiles, which with the laser pointer-transceivers in place would be able to overcome terrain clutter on land here where the ground was so flat and featureless. And then, coming out of the clouds that severely degraded the effectiveness of the laser-based Ice Hellion defences, the missiles would turn on them at supersonic speed and go into powered dives directly into their cruiser-sized targets in the form of the landed DropShips.
Minutes ticked by as the Mechs were progressively unloaded and began to swing out into positions to immediately take in the ground, form up, and move out with the typical rapidity of the Ice Hellions. They were unloading fast, and how much good could be done by the missiles was falling away with each second in which more were unloaded… A warning through the tapped line brought Variti’s head up sharp and quick.
“Your Honour. Activate.”
The Gendarme shrugged her shoulders, bit her lip, and flicked the switch within a heartbeat. “Let’s go!” The two leapt up with their guns and tumbling and running down the low and rolling hill on the other side, raced deep into the undergrowth of a swampy creekbed.
The active homing of the huge missiles as they came in warned the Ice Hellions, firing their lasers which could bear and which were operational up through the cloud cover and the particulate ash in the sky to watch them reflected and refracted, though other weapons were much more able. There were almost a hundred and fifty supersonic missiles racing in against them, though, and then the homing tracker on the 25kg targeting unit went live.
Combined with their inertial guidance to the exact point, the missiles dived, picking up the signals and plunging down into the ground at supersonic speeds as more of the missiles exploded in the sky above from fire, or being spoofed into turns beyond the ability of their frames to handle. Mechs already deploying were ripped to pieces as missiles exploded nearby to them, boring into the ground and detonating to rip their limbs off in erupting craters of earth and rock as missiles intended to sink aircraft carriers easily overwhelmed them. And then two dropships were hit, hit particularly bad, their loading ramps down and Mechs in the process of deploying, and blew up. Others took the missiles bodily on their armour and survived, though several were knocked loose from their mooring legs and extensively damaged.
The Ballistic missiles plunged out of the cloud cover even as the secondary explosions from the anti-ship missiles were still taking place. The two women hid deep, burowing down into the creek valley, and started to move their way out of it, while in the rolling fields beyond they could hear the explosions echoing through the land. The Ballistic missiles didn’t have to hit their targets. They were fitted with huge 4,000kg thermobaric warheads, turning the air around the opened up and unloading DropShips into a living firestorm inferno. Only eight of the 32 missiles launched at the LZ had actually gotten through despite all the advantages the Kaetjhasti had crafted into the assault, but it was enough to still wreak hell with the DropShips in the middle of unloading.
Then the inertially guided truck-launched stealth cruise missiles came in, also
detonating with thermobaric munitions in the midst of the LZ. Their effect was considerably lessened as most of the DropShip commanders had managed to button up by that point, and even when severely damaged, worked aggressively to contain damage and bring internal fires started under control, and of course the stealth was less than fully effective against the defensive fires, but it was still sufficient to cause more damage.
Finally, desperately, the GA-80neo’s went in, toss-bombing in regimental sized attack groups on each of the enemy LZ’s. They tore through the sky at barely subsonic speeds and little more than twenty metres above the terrain, to launch their payloads in tight, arcing flips that sent bombs on ballistic trajectories toward the enemy LZs, and paid for it, many being shot down by the defenders’ weaponry as they tried to arc back into low altitude cover. But they had come in fast and hard and incredibly
close to the ground, and many of the two 1,000kg bombs each was carrying plunged down into the LZ even if the fighter itself was lost, high explosives cratering the ground as the speed of the attack brought it from fruition to ending within bare minutes. Several succeeded in striking the DropShips and yet more damage accumulated; some more unlucky Mechs were destroyed while they rushed to form anti-air perimeters.
The sole crash-landed DropShip by itself was not so lucky. Able to line up on it and overwhelm it with mass, the third of the GA-80 regiments tore it shreds with a series of bomb hits that finished off the Mechs and Mech pilots inside, lobbing more than a hundred and twenty bombs at it for the loss of only six aircraft, while eight MRBMs finished the site with their thermobaric warheads. By the end of the fighting another seven DropShips at the two LZs were hors d’combat.
And the two Gendarme officers--in their pattern camoflauge instead of peacetime baby blue uniforms with Sam Brown belt and kappe--were moving faster now, through the endless driving rain, through the high fields of farmers who would not have the chance to reap their crops, toward the shelter of friendly formations moving in to give battle. They knew that to be on low ground would be very bad indeed. Much of this land was reclaimed swamp, and it was only going to remain reclaimed for a very short time longer.
For that matter, they were also the only targeting team to survive intact. A small consolation to the Ice Hellions; almost 45% of their invasion force had been rendered hors d’combat before it had entered battle. But likewise, the Kaetjhasti had exhausted a single thrown bolt, designed to be used in the excruciatingly quick tempo of Nuclear War, which had taken ten years to build up to this strength, and which had been carefully concentrated on a small part of the country over a fortnight’s desperate effort to make the strike count.
By the end of the day 19 TVI-500s, 171 TVI-260Hs, 56 GA-80neo, 4 AWACS aircraft, and 7 TKhB-300 bombers had been shot down and 25 billion rupiyah worth of military hardware had been destroyed, beyond the billions more of munitions exhausted in the fighting. But the Besipana Transporter-Erectors had mostly escaped intact, so the Army would still have its heavy air-defence SAMs as it moved in to open the land battle. There was no reason to give the Ice Hellions a chance to spread out; if they loved speed, they would get it. The Panzerkorps formations concentrated to attack the next day.