Riding the Red Horse

Read Online Riding the Red Horse by Jerry Pournelle, Christopher Nuttall, Rolf Nelson, Chris Kennedy, Brad Torgersen, Thomas Mays, James F. Dunnigan, William S. Lind - Free Book Online

Book: Riding the Red Horse by Jerry Pournelle, Christopher Nuttall, Rolf Nelson, Chris Kennedy, Brad Torgersen, Thomas Mays, James F. Dunnigan, William S. Lind Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jerry Pournelle, Christopher Nuttall, Rolf Nelson, Chris Kennedy, Brad Torgersen, Thomas Mays, James F. Dunnigan, William S. Lind
rear driver-side door than the vehicle disappeared in a flash of bright light, followed by a billowing cloud of white smoke.
    “Bang, you're dead,” a young 2nd lieutenant cried exultantly.
    “Settle down, Wexsler,” barked Captain Hainesworth. He glanced at Ronald, who was too busy frowning at some notes he'd marked on legal pad from an earlier briefing to have noticed the lieutenant's outburst. “Sorry, Colonel.”
    “What's that?” Colonel Ronald M. James, Wing Commander of the 111th Fighter Wing, wasn't paying attention. “That's a confirmed kill. No question concerning the identities of the three targets?”
    “None whatsoever, Colonel. We had solid intel from NSA.”
    “Very good, Captain. Who was flying?”
    “Major McGinness was the pilot, sir.”
    “A nice clean kill. No collateral damage. That's what I like to see.” Ronald scribbled a brief note on his pad, reminding himself to review the After Action Report and put the captain in for a medal. He was overdue. “Tell the major I said as much.”
    “Of course, Colonel.”
    The three militants never had a chance. The MQ-13 Grimm could carry 1,500 pounds of ordnance, which usually took the form of GBU-42 PLH bombs and AGM-117 Hellfire III air-to-ground missiles. It was also equipped with a pair of mini-ATAS missiles and an XM-2 autofletchette for defense against enemy drones. It could stay in the air for 96 hours, floating patiently high above its unknowing targets, waiting until the right opportunity presented itself.
    Judging by the size of the explosion, the white vehicle had been taken out by a Hellfire. And just like that, Ronald could scratch two more names off the Pentagon's list of most wanted militants. Which was certainly timely, considering his meeting in Washington this afternoon; being able to report the kills in person to the Commander of Strategic Air-To-Ground Operations, more commonly known as SATGO, would be one more checked box on his eventual ticket out of Willow Grove. The mission had actually been completed several hours ago, before he'd even arrived in the op center, but he'd wanted to personally review the recording before he departed in case he was asked any questions about it.
    Not that he minded life in the suburban Pennsylvania town. Jennifer enjoyed its proximity to the civilized amenities of Philadelphia and the public schools were a damned sight better than they'd been on his last two assignments. Bruce was the proud third-string defensive end on the junior high football team and Michaela was active in gymastics as well as some sort of knitting group, if he understood correctly.
    But the fact was that the 111th Fighter Wing was a National Air Guard unit, not a proper Air Force unit, its manned aircraft had been permanently grounded seven years ago, and an air base located out in the middle of suburban Pennsylvania was no place to win a general's stars. He'd made full bird four years ago and leaped at the chance to command the UAV base established there because he knew drones were the future of air combat. But since then, he'd learned that the promotions and plum assignments were still mostly going to the traditional flyboys commanding bomber wings and the sort of fighter wings that still had real planes and pilots.
    Tradition was always hard to overcome. But things were changing. The 111th now had 25 Reapers and 10 Grimms in the place of the A-10 Thunderbolts it had once flown, and had used them to rack up more confirmed kills in the last year than any traditional fighter wing in the Air Force. Targeted drone strikes might be considerably less glamorous than high-altitude bombing or dogfighting, but no one could deny that they were a damned sight more useful these days in light of the understandable reluctance of the Red Chinese, the Russians, or anyone else to challenge American air supremacy.
    And under his command, the 111th boasted the third highest kill rate per mission of the 72 drone bases around the country. Perhaps

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