An excerpt from New Persia: Before the Storm! Pilot Farad Hashemi’s airbase is hit by a surprise attack by the Azanians!
Farad woke up to screeching air-raid sirens. He leaped out of his bunk and ran for the door. He grabbed his flight suit off the chair where he had left it the night before. Even in the new and unfamiliar layout of airfield K-2, he found his way out of the building and onto the runway in the early morning light. It was cold outside, and Farad still wore his bedclothes.
The line of Qaher fighters comprising his squadron sat on the runway wingtip to wingtip. There hadn’t been a hanger to put them in. The surge in aircraft flying north to reinforce the border had overwhelmed K-2s ability to house them all. The planes transiting north to other airfields had to wait on the runway for refueling and maintenance. The few reinforced bunkers housed the home squadron based at K-2.
Farad had arrived the night before. He had been wearied from the flight north from Persepolis. Flying a Qaher fighter required total attention for the entire trip, and yesterday had covered two thousand kilometers in two legs. He had to land for fuel at the halfway mark at a customarily deserted airfield called S-1 deep in North Province. It was a war reserve field kept ready by a skeleton staff in case of mobilization. He had seen little of S-1 beyond its runway and bathroom, to which he’d run as his fighter was refueled. The airfield staff he had seen looked haggard and overworked, but they had completed his refueling professionally and without complaint.
His arrival at K-2 had been more chaotic. Three wings of one hundred aircraft were moving north on the same day. For some reason, the wing supposed to depart before his wing arrived had not left yet. This meant both wings ended up staying the night because the Qaher was not equipped with the newest night-navigation aids. Or so his wing leader had said.
Farad had objected since all his pilots were night qualified and could find one of their own airfields with a map and compass. Couldn’t they leapfrog their place in line and leave ahead of the other wing? No, they had already made two flights, and they were too tired to go a third. Farad had agreed they were tired, but wars were tiring, also, and didn’t they train for it?
He had failed to convince anyone. There was an extra two hundred aircraft at airfield K-2. The air raid siren was wailing across the runways.
Farad ran to his plane, the first in the row. No one was there to get the aircraft ready for takeoff. The small airbase ground crew had far too many planes to service. Farad looked around and found a Qaher being fueled and armed. He ran to it.
Farad heard the approaching roar of jet engines. Around the airfield, the big anti-aircraft artillery fired. He could feel the pressure of their muzzle blasts with the booming sound of the 100mm guns shooting.
“I need this plane!” Farad yelled to the first man he came to.
“This is Lieutenant Bandar’s plane!” The aircrewman yelled back. He stared at the half-naked officer.
“And I am a captain!” Farad shouted. He filled his voice with all the authority he could muster while wearing shorts.
Around him, the small-caliber AA guns had begun to fire. Each weapon would shoot a five-round clip, then pause to reload, sending a stuttering series of BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM sounds across the runway.
The crewman looked at the flight suit Farad carried in one arm. Farad didn’t know if it was the captain insignia or the Star Medal that convinced the man to allow him to climb into the cockpit of the Qaher fighter. Perhaps neither.
Then the first bombs landed.
The hangar at the end of the runway exploded into fragments. The planes inside, fueled and ready for the trip north, blew up one after another, each adding to a growing orange fireball spreading into the sky. Heat like the sun blasted the men on the airfield trying to get their planes underway.
Without another word, Farad pulled on his flight suit. He jumped onto the emergency step on the left side of the Qaher’s fuselage and bounded into the cockpit. The aircrewman, whose name Farad never knew, strapped him in and lowered the canopy. Farad did the fastest preflight check of his career, skipping whole sections, to escape the inferno around him.
More bombs fell out of the clear morning sky, preceded by the silver streaks of the Azanian jets. Farad’s eye picked them out as they passed. Dumas, he thought. Azanian single seat, single-engine, fighter-bombers. Named after the Cheetah, a legendary cat. A match for his Qaher, if he could get into the air to challenge them.
The bombs exploded. The control tower was neatly sliced by fragments. The top third slid off the base and fell to the ground. Another hanger exploded in a fireball. Sitting helplessly in his cockpit, Farad waited for a bomb to blow him to pieces.
Why aren’t they bombing our planes? Farad formed the thought but immediately dismissed it from his mind. It didn’t matter. All was as God willed, and he would use the time to take his plane off the ground.
The crewman had done his preflight check as quickly as Farad. He pulled the chocks out from beneath the aircraft’s tires, and the Qaher rolled free. Farad hoped the preflight had been thorough enough to give him a chance at returning to the airfield alive. No matter. It was a small thing if he lived or died in the end. He only wished to take some Azanian bastards with him before he left the world.
Farad advanced his throttle and taxied as fast as he dared to the east-west runway 101.
As he reached the end of the runway, he saw two of the Azanian jets return. They were free of the weight of their bombs and maneuvered wildly overhead. They performed a loop overhead before breaking in opposite directions. It looked like a performance display for some visiting royal official.
What came next was not for show. Each Azanian fighter dove at a different line of Persian fighters sitting on the tarmac. Their noses flashed with cannon fire. On the ground, planes exploded, one after another, as the Azanians pulled up after firing their cannons.
Across the airfield, Farad could see the scene repeated. The enemy fighters ignored the anti-aircraft fire filling the air with lethal shells. Their bravery had a price. One silver plane broke in two and exploded into pieces.
Farad released the wheel brake and accelerated down the runway in his takeoff run.
The sounds of the attack were obliterated by the roar of Farad’s own engine at max power. Forty-five kilonewtons of thrust blasted out the rear tailpipe and accelerated the fighter to flight speed in fifteen seconds. Farad pulled back on the control stick as soon as he dared.
The runway dropped away, and he pointed the plane at the sky. He barely had flight speed at 220 km/h.
Compared to the enemy fighters overhead, he was hanging in space and an easy target. He had to fly straight to climb away from the runway.
Farad prayed for time. Just a few seconds to give his turbojet engine time to climb a few hundred feet. Just enough room to turn and fight. God, give me seconds.
Farad felt like an eternity passed as he waited for the cannon shells to explode around his cockpit. They did not come.
Farad pulled the lever to retract the Qaher’s wing flaps when his airspeed passed 250 km/h. He lost lift but gained speed. He needed speed then more than ever.
As soon as he could maneuver, Farad turned his head to see out the back of the canopy. He squinted into the rising sun. A shadow crossed the bright disk. Flashes and tracers followed.
Farad jerked his stick to the right and mashed the rudder pedal with his foot. The plane responded instantly, pulling into a right bank. The tracers flew past the white-painted underside of the Qaher and into the ground. The Azanian Duma fighter overshot and blew past so close Farad was buffeted by its passing and heard the roar of its turbojet engine.
The complete book New Persia: Before the Storm can be found at