Well, my hope was that the enemy wouldn't make big moves before morning, to deny me by advantages in night-fighting, but it doesn't look like they feel the same way...
First Evening - First Wave
Things still looked calm after my successful second fighter strike on their AEW and support planes, and my planes withdrew to reload, while another pair of Tornadoes moved into the area to provide cover for UNPROFOR. Another jammer AN-12 was temptingly near the border as they arrived, and my pilots were able to dart into Serbia to knock it down. My AWACS started reporting enemy fighters scrambling nearby, which seemed like a reasonable response to my provocation, but then there were more and more contacts, first at multiple airbases in Serbia, and then at airbases in Hungary.
Looking around, I realised I had left myself with exactly two (2) Tornado ADVs in the region, with partially exhausted missile loads, and the enemy horde was growing by the moment. The order was given to start scrambling aircraft in response, but the question was how many to launch, since it wasn't certain how big the attack would be. This caused a somewhat drawn-out launch process, rather than one single scramble, which had the largest effect in the south where my transit times were greatest. In the meantime the pair of Tornadoes did what they could, darting into a pack of light attack planes that were forming up and knocking down four of them with Sidewinders, before running for their lives from the growing swarm of fighters.
The attack in the south was composed of swarms of lesser fighters and attack planes making a two-pronged attack. Dense packs of light attack planes closed in on the UNPROFOR facilities at Sarajevo, while a longer stream of bomb-laden MiG-21s headed for the UNPROFOR logistics base near Split. A few flights of MiG-29s preceded the planes headed for Split, and a dense screen of MiG-21s and 29s guarded the southern flank of the Sarajevo attack. Tornadoes and F-104s came rushing across the Adriatic on afterburner in an attempt to head them off, but the enemy started much closer to their targets than I did, and UNPROFOR forces at Sarajevo soon came under heavy bombardment by the light attack aircraft. My Tornadoes attempted to clear the way through the fighter screen with their Sky Flash SARH missiles to get to the attack, but their success rate was feeble, and many missiles passed blindly by their targets. (Recent changes to the behaviour of SARH missiles, which now seem to do lag pursuit end games, make it very difficult to achieve hits.) I couldn't get through enemy fighter screen to engage, and had to abandon any attempts to protect the forces in Sarajevo, which suffered repeated hits on the tent-sites and some damage to observation posts.
My planes did better against the Split attack, managing to kill the leading MiG-29s (not before one overflew Split and shot down a naval helicopter) and draw more fighters away to the north. (Let's pretend that was deliberate, not the byproduct of fleeing desperately on afterburner.) This left the MiG-21 bombers relatively exposed, but even so, the enemy fighters mixed in with the pack kept interfering and preventing me from lining up for clean shots or cannon fire. It took a lot of desperate dogfighting, and the last-minute arrival of late-launched F-104s and Tornadoes, to shoot down or drive back the attackers. In the end, none of them made it to Split.
The attack in the north, from Hungary, was entirely composed of high-grade fighters (Mig-29s and Su-27s), and they seemed to be headed for Aviano. Most of my AMRAAM-bearing F-16s hurried to meet them, with some F-104s in support, and a fierce combat erupted. The enemy's long-range missiles actually outrange my AMRAAMs, but fortunately they weren't firing at extreme range (MiG-29s have feeble radars, and I think the EC-130 jamming behind me hampered the Su-27s). As a result we opened fire at about the same time, and my AMRAAMs seemed able to stymie their SARH missile shots, by forcing them to turn and break lock. Nonetheless, my hit rate was low against the nimble and well defended fighters, and before long I was falling back under the pressure until I could gradually attrite the attackers. I lost several F-104s here, when they closed in, but my F-16s (and a couple of F-18s) all managed to stay BVR, and only a few of the enemy managed to return home.
I'm not certain if this was actually an "attack", per se, since no bombers or attack planes made an appearance (unless there were some PGMs on the MiGs which never got launched). Perhaps it was more of a fighter sweep intended to keep my best planes pinned in the north? If so, it certainly worked. AMRAAMs would have made a merry massacre down south, but they were all defending Aviano instead.
While the tail end of the first attacks were still being fought off, AWACS began reporting additional contacts forming up over enemy airbases. So far, it looks like another set of 18 or so Su-27s and MiG-29s plus a few MiG-21s coming through Hungary in the north, and I'm seeing large numbers of MiG-23s (at least 14) forming up in Serbia, and hints of other radar emissions further away in enemy territory. ELINT also reports that the enemy has replaced their jammer losses, and another AEW Madcap is up, so they will have eyes on the fight once more.
What are the enemy's actual objectives?
The northern forces look like more modern fighters, for the moment, so I suspect that's another pin. There may be attack planes coming too, but so far I haven't seen any there. UNPROFOR HQ, in Zagreb, is very close, however, and if a ground attack comes from the north it may well go there. The southern force is showing two variants of the MiG-23, and I suspect the old ones will be toting bombs, so I smell a strike brewing there. They may try and hit the two southern UNPROFOR facilities again, and there is the possibility that they will have a go at the shipping steaming towards Split. Thanks to the fishing boat navy, they definitely know I'm there.
How am I to deal with this?
I didn't launch all my fighters against the first attacks. Instead, I tried to keep a reserve of about a third of my good planes on the ground, none of the Mirages participated, and a couple of F-104 squadrons remained completely at ready. Now I have no choice but to use them.
Orders have gone out to launch all remaining fighters from Aviano, to deal with the enemy coming through Hungary. Half my Mirages, and the remaining F-104s forward-based to Rivolto will participate, and the EF-111s are launching to assist. This will still leave me with a worse force-ratio than for the first fight. None of my airborne F-16s will have the time to do a quick turnaround before the enemy arrives in the north. Instead, two thirds of them will head south-east to guard Zagreb. They only have Sidewinders left, but that may be enough to severely damage any attack planes headed there. The remaining F-16s are burner-dashing for Aviano to begin reloading, as are the F-104s headed back to Rivolto. (I'm also considering flying ready AWACS, ELINT, and tankers from Aviano back to bases in western Italy, to get the vulnerable planes a bit further from the fight.)
In central Italy, I'm emptying a complete F-104 base (Grosetto), with half heading for Zagreb, and half for Split. In southern Italy the last of the Tornados and F-104s are lifting off to head for Split, passing planes which are hurrying back from the southern fight.
What does this leave me?
Well, the cupboard is essentially bare now. I've still got a full squadron of ready F-104s and a few Mirages at Cervia-Pisignano at the north end of the Adriatic, but that's about it. I'll have some F-16s reloaded with AMRAAM at Aviano in about 45 minutes and some replenished F-104s shortly afterwards. My southern fighters should be home and reloaded within an hour. If the second wave resolves quickly, I might have my Zagreb-bound F-16s home and reloaded in an hour and a half. Will this be enough? We shall see...