The RAF maintained two principal Quick Response Alert (QRA) bases in the UK, one in Coningsby just under 200 kilometers virtually due north of London and the primary site at Lossiemouth in Scotland. Each was charged with getting a pair of Eurofighter Typhoons airborne within five minutes of a scramble order. Once they received the go order, these planes could accelerate from brakes-off to Mach 1.5 at 10,000 meters in just over two minutes.
The process was designed to begin at the National Air Defense Operations Centre (NADOC), RAF Air Command, High Wycombe, which continuously monitored both military and civilian radar data for anomalies against standard expectations for the Recognized Air Picture (RAP).
Once a potential threat was noted, a scramble order was passed on to the Control and Reporting Centers (CRCs) at RAF Scampton and RAF Boulmer who maintained direct contact with the QRA pilots and directed them to proceed to specified coordinates.
A classified number of Typhoons from Lossiemouth’s four squadrons that collectively totaled nearly fifty aircraft were also kept on ready status at all times, meaning that the pilots were on call and the planes fully fueled. These additional Typhoons could be airborne in ten to twelve minutes with others from the three squadrons at Coningsby prepped and on standby as well.
At the onset of the event, the RAP had been nominal all morning until 12:00 when NADOC operators watched the radar images and corresponding transponder signatures vanish from their screens along a north/south line moving due west that spanned the entire length of England.
As more data disappeared from their screens, engineers initiated a pre-programmed set of rapid diagnostics while communication officers quickly confirmed that all RAF facilities were experiencing the same moving data blackout.
The situation changed severely when all communication ceased from the secondary QRA base at Coningsby, being located at 0.1701 degrees west longitude and just over 15 kilometers from the Prime Meridian, at forty six seconds past noon. The shift commander at NADOC was informed of the evolving situation within ninety seconds of its inception, and before two minutes had transpired, a scramble order was posted.
At Lossiemouth, the initial contingent of Typhoons took to the air with standard armament. In addition, the potential severity of the threat led the commander to issue a launch order for the secondary aircraft waiting on standby.
Taking off toward the west, the QRA couplet made a wide arc back toward the east and were confronted by a scene that was nearly incomprehensible: planes were vanishing from the sky leaving plummeting bodies behind while directly below on the ground, buildings, vehicles, and every type of infrastructure simply disappeared as if an invisible hand was moving across the land.
The lead plane had no time to avoid intercepting that wall of dissolution and was simply gone, but the pilot in the follow plane put his aircraft in a tight bank, nearly blacking out from the g-force as the event interface approached shearing off the first few inches of its underhanging armament before the jet gradually pulled away and off to the west.
The other Typhoons in the secondary squadron followed suit and were soon keeping pace ahead of the disruption, reporting back to NADOC until it also ceased communication just over twelve minutes past noon.
One of the QRA aircraft was fitted with the latest version of the Rafael Reccelite electro-optical reconnaissance pod that could broadcast live stabilized video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical units up to 160 kilometers distant.
RAF stations to the west picked up these images and repeated them throughout the NATO communications network, alerting stunned allies (and adversaries as well) of the existence and nature of the emergency at hand.
Episode 6 will be posted here soon
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