Image Gallery About The Author Buy Trade Paperback
Kirov Reviews Maps Buy For Kindle



“Fox Three, Fox Three! Missiles away!” Lieutenant Peter Tang looked at his flight panel, saw the hostile radar lock warning, and made the decision to fire in a heartbeat—but he was too late. He looked over his shoulder at the other three planes in his subflight and saw their missiles streaking away after his, rocketing into the sky above where the unseen enemy had fingered them with targeting radar. He knew damn well what was coming next.

“Countermeasures!” he yelled into his comm-set. “Break formation and every man for himself!” Then he pulled his F-16 into high G turn, tipped into a dive and poured on the power. So much for breakfast.

Tang was up early that morning, along with all the other pilots in his F-16 Squadron. Early mess was at 05:00 hours where he had eaten with his buddy Alex Wu and the newcomer, Kevin Lo. Their Americanized names were all too common in the breakaway Republic, where well over 80% of the population adopted and used English given names. You couldn’t even fill out a job or college entrance exam application in Taiwan without listing your English name these days, but call them what you will, these were the Squadron leaders who would have their butts in the seats on Alert One scramble duty this morning.—top of the list.

Tang was operating with the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing out of Hualien AFB on the northeastern coast of Taiwan. His 17th Group Thor was among the best in the service, flying F-16A/B Falcons, and charged with defense of the airspace over Taipei. His long time friend, Alex Wu had just made 1st Lieutenant himself and was now assigned to the 27th Black Dragon group along with his new sidekick, Lt. Kevin Lo. They were out in the ready rooms when the first reports came in—missile warning—for they were not the only men of war up early that day.


400 Kilometers to the west, in the hilly inland country stretching from Shantou to Fushou, the Dong Feng ballistic missiles were up as well, their red tipped noses rising to meet the dawn. In the year 1232, the Chinese repelled Mongol invaders during the battle of Kai-Keng by using the primitive rockets powered by gunpowder, the first known use of that seemingly magical black powder as a weapon of war. The ‘arrows of flying fire’ had come a long way since then.

600 DF-11s were available for the overture, about 50 improved to extend their range to 825 kilometers. These could strike any target on the Taiwanese mainland, though the bulk of the inventory with shorter 300 kilometer ranges would be used against targets on the eastern shores of the wayward island republic. The DF-11s were largely carried by mobile launch trucks, their engines growling on the coastal hills of mainland China that morning as one battery after another signaled armed and ready. 300 were available for launch with in twenty minutes of the order to fire, and the order had finally come.

The first batteries began to launch a little after 07:00 hours on the morning of September 25, the first day of the Great War that the world had nervously been awaiting. All that came before in the contentious waters of the Diaoyutai Islands and the turbulent black seas of the Gulf of Mexico were but foreshocks. The Chinese missile launch against two American satellites overflying their territory was deemed to be a defensive measure, but this was something else entirely. The Dragon had finally opened its maw and spewed fire and anger at its wayward son. The East Wind of its hot breath was blowing in a hard rain of steel, with missiles roaring from their mobile launch pads and streaking up into the clear morning sky.

The US built PAVE PAWS Phased Array Warning System on the high peaks of Taiwan’s rugged mountains east of Hsinchu City were the first to see the threat, and orders were flashed to SAM batteries all over the island. US built Patriot battery radars could range out only about 170 kilometers, not enough to see the missiles in their initial launch and boost phase, but the Phased Array system gave them six precious minutes to deploy and arm their systems for intercept operations. There were ten Patriot batteries in all, three assigned to Taipei, three to the Taichung region and the remaining four to cities in the southern reaches of the island. They were each capable of firing either four PAC-2/GEM or sixteen PAC-3 missiles per launcher, and each battery had eight launchers. That put 32 active PAC-2/GEMs or as many as 128 PAC-3s in a battery, a formidable missile defense if they could perform as advertised.

Elsewhere in the region, the Japanese watched with increasing concern and quietly deployed Patriot missile interceptor units at the Defense Ministry's headquarters in Ichigaya in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, at the Ground Self-Defense Force's Camp Asaka in Tokyo's Nerima Ward, and at Camp Narashino. Thankfully they were not in the crosshairs at the moment, but they were taking no chances.

150 missiles were up in the first Chinese launch. The world had not see anything like it since the MLRS rocket artillery barrage that had preceded the first Gulf War. Five minutes later a second barrage of 150 missiles were darkening the skies as the East Wind began to blow in earnest. Soon the deadly duel of Patriot versus ballistic missile began, and no one really knew what the likely percentage of successful intercepts would be. One of the first targets was the sole PAVE PAWS Radar that had spotted and announced the incoming strike, defended by a single Patriot battery. Thirty missiles were assigned to this one target alone, and though the Patriots were good, and scored many stunning intercepts and kills, they did not get them all. Twelve got through the defense, slamming into the hilltop and sending huge columns of black smoke and fire into the sky as their 800kg warheads exploded on impact. Three of the twelve were close enough to the main radar itself to do serious damage—enough to blacken the stations capabilities and put it out of the battle for the foreseeable future.


Lieutenant Peter Tang heard the scramble alert and he and his men were up and rushing to their planes. His ready group was on the black tarmac and juiced for action, and within minutes he was leading a section of four planes out onto the main runway for takeoff. The tails spewed their white fire as the engines hurtled the nimble fighters aloft. Tang looked out to see the first of the Patriot Batteries north of the base beginning to fire, the thin white contrails of the missiles scoring the sky. He knew the air defense crews in the Skyguard and Antelope short range SAM defense batteries would be busy soon as well. As he banked right, climbing past 15,000 feet he saw what the Patriots were firing at. Missile trails seemed to be coming down from heaven itself, and he knew the base was being hit by a heavy salvo of Dong Fengs. There were two spectacular intercepts by patriots that set his pilots to cheering before the first of the range modified DF-11s exploded just north of the field. They couldn’t even hit the damn runway, he thought, and then the colossal explosion at the north end of the main airstrip gave him a hard kick as he remembered the aviation fuel depot there—fourteen big tanks loaded with fuel and lubricant oils, and two DF-11’s had plowed right into them, sending an enormous pillar of fire and oily black smoke erupting skyward.

While Taiwanese Air Defense crews were heartened by their initial kill ratio, with PAVE PAWS off line they could no longer see the second wave of 150 missiles as they reached apogee and tipped over to make their blistering descent towards their targets. A minute later the Patriots began to acquire and fire, but two more waves of DF-11s were ready to join battle if deemed necessary. The second wave saw successful intercepts reduce considerably from a little over 50% to just under 40%, which meant that about seventy missiles found targets in the first wave, and another eighty-two blasted home in the second wave. The damage these big warheads were inflicting was considerable.

You never get them all, he thought. Some of the damn missiles always get through. They got through in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem when Israel and Iran traded blows in a brief, bloody exchange in 2014, and they’re going to get through here. They have more missiles and planes than we have SAMs!  It was a sobering thought as the voice of his buddy Alex Wu, or ‘Alley Ho’ as he called him, came over his headset.

“You up there for the show, Pete?”
“Seeing more than I wished,” Tang called back. “They hit the fuel depot!”
“Going to be thirsty this afternoon then, Tang. So don’t pull any high G barrel rolls up here.”
“Not unless I have a J-20 on my ass,” Tang called back. “See you upstairs, Alley Ho.” He wondered if he would have a functioning base to return to in the hours ahead. His Falcon was not known for its endurance, though he knew tankers would be up in the next hour in the seas east of the island—if they could make it off the airfields in one piece.

Air fields on Taiwan took the brunt of the missile barrages, a deliberate and methodical interdiction intended to prepare the way for things Peter Tang and his mates would soon be contending with in the skies over the island. There were a hundred and fifty F-16s and another 56 Mirage 2000 fighters, most well overdue for the scrap yards by 2021. Taiwan had hoped to buy better F-16Ds from the US, but a skittish congress and budget problems never saw the planned purchase go through. So the old Falcons would form the bulk of the air defense, supported by 126 of the indigenous F-CK-1A/B fighter interceptors, dubbed “the little fuckers” by US pilots that had trained with them over the years due to the obvious missing letter in their designation. The alert ready squadrons climbed up into the angry sky to take up their defensive patrol stations while their brothers behind them would have to deal with the cratered runways when the DF-11s began to hit home.

It soon became clear that this initial barrage was largely aimed at military installations, ports and airfields, and that China’s primary strategy was to try and defeat Taiwan’s defenses before the United States could intervene. An hour after the first massive barrage of 300 missiles, another 300 were being deployed and ready to strike in three waves of 100 each.

Unwilling to stand simply on defense, Taiwan immediately ordered up some bad weather of its own—the Hsiung Feng cruise missile, or Brave Wind with a 600 kilometer range, and the more dangerous Yunfeng with an extended range of up to 2000 kilometers. While only fifty of these longer range missiles had been produced, they would be able to strike a range of targets in mainland China, including Air Force Regional headquarters, Naval bases, fighter and bomber divisions, even as far away as Beijing and Shanghai. Taiwan could deliver one good shock to her adversary, because even though the Chinese had a very robust SAM umbrella themselves, Tang had been correct—you never get them all. It would be enough to save face and rattle the nerves of the people in heavily populated cities when the missiles came in, but not enough to seriously degrade China’s military capability. The Brave Wind was just that, an audacious reprisal intended to inflict short term pain, but it was one the PLA would answer in spades. The East Wind was a storm of serious hurt, and it carried more than ballistic missiles.

The DF-11’s were just the opening round. By the time the second series of 300 missiles had concluded their barrages, there had been over 200 that hit home on or very near their intended targets. The port at the off shore archipelago of Makung was hit with quays blasted, fuel and ammunition storage bungers in flames and one of the three frigates that had been berthed there shredded with heavy shrapnel from a very near miss at her berthing. The Chi Yang, a Knox class Frigate, was the first ship of the Taiwan Navy to feel the Dragon’s bite. Two other frigates berthed there, the Fong Yang and Fen Yang were quickly hauling anchors and racing out to sea. Airfields at Hualien, Tainan, Chiayi and Taitung had all been hit, but the cities near them were assiduously spared.

It was then that Lt. Peter Tang saw the threat vector data feed from the E-2C AWACS now coordinating long range surveillance. Enemy fighters were inbound at high altitude, and Tang called to his squadron mates to rally them for the battle ahead. The pilots were brave and well trained, but the odds they would soon be facing were very steep. The Chinese had learned a hard lesson when they scrambled older J-10 and J-11 fighters in their recent duel with Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands.

This time they were sending their best, the one plane Tang was really worried about, the formidable J-20. These were the planes Lt. Matt Eden had warned about when he said the ‘Bats’ were redeploying to coastal airfields days ago, and the same planes defense expert Reed had called ‘Vampires’ when he tried to explain them to the White House Chief of Staff. They were Chinas A game, their premier fifth generation stealth fighter, and they trumped any older legacy fighter the Air Force of Taiwan could put in front of them.

It had taken the Chinese some time to get the planes fully wired and ramped up for mass production. Problems related to thrust vectoring, sensor fusion and their new AESA radars were all daunting at the outset. Once the biggest hurtle was surmounted, the addition of a reliable engine capable of producing sustained supercruise speeds, the plane finally lived up to the early hype that accompanied its debut in 2012. By 2021 the plane was a fully integrated and well tested strike fighter and China had built 120 for front line deployment. They were being flown by an elite if limited corps of highly skilled pilots, the very best graduates from the flight schools and military training programs.

The J-20s formed up in three heavy strike squadrons of twenty planes each, half the available inventory. They would be accompanied by some other very capable friends, for China had also produced several squadrons of J-16 ‘Silent Flankers’ in response to similar programs mounted by the US with their ‘Silent Eagle.’ Only thirty-two in number, the J-16 was really a modified J-11B that incorporated rudimentary stealth features. It took a very good plane and made it better, and thirty were aloft in the vanguard, leading in the J-20s. To either side of this central formation of ninety planes were two groups composed of J-10 and J-11 fighters, thirty each. The first major air strike against the beleaguered island would therefore come from 150 planes.

The attack was aimed at the air defense gap between Hsinchu and Taichung, preceded by a wave of truck launched CJ-10 Long Sword cruise missiles aimed at two key targets in the breakthrough zone. One was the coastal radar site at Houlong, and the other was the single HAWK battery near Miaoli City. If it was taken down the overlapping circles of SAM coverage would lapse in this one area, and leave a gap in the defense. While those two cities deployed robust SAM defenses, the gap between them was more sparsely defended. Their aim was to break through this HAWK battery and streak in high over the central highlands and then sweep north to the big naval base at Suao. Others would come in at Taipei from the south, though a few groups had some very special missions.

They were targeted at the big dam facilities that held in the Shimen Reservoir supplying water to more than three million people in northern Taiwan. Other dams controlling water flowing from the bigger FeiTs’ui / Feicui Reservoir would also be targeted and within thirty minutes of their destruction an uncontrolled cascade of water would come surging down the two major rivers flowing from the highlands down into the capitol of TaiPei.

The heart of the formation came in very high while flights of J-10s and J-11s peeled off at lower altitudes, bait for the HAWKs armed with strike missiles to engage the SAM batteries. They would try to forge a way through the defenses that had already been heavily saturated by 600 Dong Feng 11s. The cutting edge of the SAM defenses were the ten Patriot batteries, but its backbone was a much older system of the older HAWK SAMs that were slowly being phased out and replaced by the Sky Bow II systems. While many of the better systems had been tasked to take on the Don Feng missile barrages, the HAWKs were still vital links in the defense to face the threat from aircraft. There was only one small problem, the flight ceiling of the missiles was about 45,000 feet, and so while the J-10s and J-11s swooped in to engage, the J-20s were about to demonstrate one of those often neglected statistics that would make them so deadly, a service ceiling exceeding 65,000 feet. In effect the plane could out fly the missiles that were supposed to shoot it down.

The Vampires were flying high that morning, out from their hidden caves in the hills of the homeland. When the Chinese strike group broke through the coastal defense network, the F-16s were immediately vectored in to close the gap. They had a good idea where the enemy was coming in high with their main strike package, but the F-16s were straining for altitude as they climbed to meet the enemy. The Chinese J-20 was not easy to find and track. Their returns were not solid on radar, and they came and went. None of the F-16s could seem to hold a steady signal lock and it was coming down to that nebulous line in BVR combat where you either fire or die.

Tang elected to fire. His subflight of four falcons were the first to callout out the NATO brevity code “Fox Three” as their AIM -120C missiles were sent into battle. An active radar seeker, this version of the missile had a good range of 105 kilometers, and could switch to passive homing if jammed. Tang was hoping his missiles could get some of the high flying Chinese fighters “in the basket” of their active radar search sweep where they had a chance to lock on. While capable of receiving in-flight data to assist in a course correction to find the enemy target, Tang’s fighters weren’t going to be able to send anything. They were about to have some very troublesome company in the skies over the central highlands.

High above, some 15,000 feet beyond the service ceiling of the F-16, the J-20s had a long range missile of their own to send into battle. They had easily seen, tracked and targeted the climbing F-16s and had already fired China’s latest long range lance in the deadly game of air to air missile combat—the the P-21 Thunderbolt. By the time Lieutenants Peter Tang, Alex Wu and Kevin Lo detected the radar lock it was already too late. Alex Wu heard his mate call out ‘Fox Three’ and followed suit to fire his missiles, but it was going to be a very busy morning that day, and for all of them it would be their last...


Chinese J-16 “Silent Flanker”


Chendu J-20

General characteristics

    Crew: one (pilot)
    Length: 20.3 m (66 ft 7 in)
    Wingspan: 12.88 m (42 ft 3 in)
    Height: 4.45 m (14 ft 7 in)
    Wing area: 73 m2 (790 sq ft)
    Empty weight: 17,000 kg (37,479 lb)
    Max takeoff weight: 36,287 kg (80,000 lb) upper estimate

    Range: 5,500 km (3,418 mi; 2,970 nmi)
    Combat range: 2,150 km (1,336 mi; 1,161 nmi)
    Service ceiling: 20,000 m (65,617 ft)

The J-20 has a large belly weapon bay for short/long-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) (PL-10, PL-12C/D & PL-21) and two smaller lateral weapon bays behind the air inlets for short-range AAMs (PL-10).

Contact Us Here

The Kirov Series: