First time was hard. Now operational readiness is simply boring.
Who would’ve thought that sitting in a cramped cockpit, waiting for a scramble order would cease to be mind-wracking, terrifying experience? First time around there were shaking hands and trembling voices, going through the pre-flight checks with cold certainty that THIS IS NOT A DRILL, that they are going to take off, evade the interceptors, then launch their stand-off Blue Steel missile at a city or a harbor or a command and control site somewhere.
Now there’s only boredom.
They are sitting in dark cockpit, watching mirages over the hot runway through half drawn anti-flash curtains. Apart from NBC-clad ground crew, the mirages are the only thing moving: a near miss from a cruise missile took care of all the vegetation and animals in the vicinity of their airbase – along with a sleepy town a mile away.
There’s nothing to do here, in the darkness of the heavy bomber in a reinforced bunker. The newspapers are old, last delivery was before base went into lockdown. BBC Home Service on the Navigator’s smuggled radio has the same platitudes, interspersed with the same classical music pieces. First time around they have said everything that was to be said.
So they sit, waiting.
Waiting for the ball to go up again.