The Chinese pilot brought his Sukhoi 27 fighter jet to fifty thousand feet and glanced to his left. His wingman was about half a mile out there, right in formation. A feeling of pride surged through him as he checked the controls on the PRC’s most powerful fighter plane.
He and his comrades had trained for encounters with the Indians and maybe the Soviets. From their forward base in Tibet they would be the first line of defense to a southern or western threat. Ironically his opponents would probably be flying the same model of plane he was in. But endless hours of training would give the Chinese pilots the edge when the time came.
This moment, on the other hand, was one of those boring moments in the life of a fighter pilot. A fast business jet had taken off from Lhasa without permission and was flying north. The pair of Su-27s had been detailed to catch up with it and force it down. It was probably just some annoying western reporter or a smuggler. The most exciting thing it might have on board would be artifacts. Somebody was always trying to steal China’s history.
Within minutes the black jet was in their sights. It had been identified as a Bombardier Challenger jet, a model in service with the PRC Air Forces. But the ground controller was reporting air defenses hadn’t been able to lock onto it and neither his radar or infrared systems could either. Now he was annoyed.
Fortunately it didn’t seem to be trying to escape. It stayed on the heading it had left Lhasa on, making him wonder if they had their radio switched off. Or this be an exercise. Perhaps the air force testing a new stealth model jet.
His quarry was flying at its top speed of eight hundred eighty two kilometers per hour so he nudged up his jet‘s speed. With a top speed of twenty five hundred kilometers the plane might be able to hide but it couldn’t run. But as he closed to a mile range the plane increased its speed, keeping its distance. He frowned and looked at his gauges.
His Sukhoi had reach nine hundred kilometers per hour and the Bombadier was still ahead. Once again the voice in his ear told him the plane needed to come down. He acknowledged it, then switched on his thirty millimeter cannon. It was paired with a laser designator which quickly painted the target. Now it was just a matter of getting within range. As few as three rounds from the cannon would bring down the target.
Soon he and his wingman were past the speed of sound — twelve hundred twenty kilometers per hour or seven hundred sixty miles per hour—and the business jet was easily out pacing them. He began firing short bursts at it anyway, slewing his nose up to let the slugs drop onto his target.
He was good and it showed. Even out of range he saw at least four rounds merge with the target. But nothing happened. Well, not what he expected.
Two panels slid back on the target revealing jet engine thrusters. His infrared sensor registered them lighting up and then the business jet left them standing still. That was before his electronics went nuts, then quit. Fortunately his engine controls stayed active so he and his wingman went to their top speed of Mach 2.35—over twice the speed of sound. But even at that speed all they could do was sit back and watch it get away.