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Story Details/Summary

The protagonist is either an American or British combat pilot. He's currently flying to a base in Europe, but when he touches down on a rather primitive landing strip, he discovers that somehow, he and his jet aircraft have been hurled back to the time of the Great War. There is the usual confusion and "how did THIS happen?!?" on the part of the protagonist, but he gradually accepts that he has landed on an allied airbase smack in the middle of the war. The protagonist's contact in the story is a British, or perhaps French, officer who acts as his go between throughout much of the story.

Once acclimated to the reality of his surroundings, the pilot is eager to join the fight against the Central Powers. Specifically, he is willing to take the fight to a German squadron of biplanes that have been pummeling this particular airbase and thwarting attempts to advance friendly ground forces against the enemy. Naturally, the pilot believes the huge technological advantage of his modern fighter jet will allow him to smash the German air forces easily.

I do not recall the particular model of the jet the pilot flies. It might have been a real-world design, or a fictional one. I do recall that the plane's design is very much in keeping with American fighters and strike aircraft of the early 60's. That is, big, powerful and fast, with sophisticated equipment and armed with missiles. The plane does not have guns of any sort, nor is it particularly maneuverable (in keeping with the "dogfighting is a dead art" doctrine of that era). It's also a thirsty beast, and the protagonist asks the other officer to requisition several thousand liters of refined kerosene (i.e. jet fuel).

When the German air forces launch their next attack, the protagonist takes flight. IIRC, he tells the other officer to keep his planes on the ground and well away from the battle. I believe this is because one or more of the long-range missiles on his aircraft are nuclear-tipped. The protagonist engages the enemy at long range, selecting choice targets and firing missiles at them. Unfortunately, the attack is a complete failure. Each of the missiles fails to lock on to its target, and fizzle out when their fuel is expended. The pilot realizes that the German biplanes are made mostly of wood and canvas, and there's not enough heat or radar signal generated by the planes for the sensors in the missiles to lock on to them. The protagonist chides himself that he should have gone after the enemy airfield hangars with his missiles. As he has no guns on his jet, he can do nothing but return to base.

The pilot touches down, bitterly disappointed. The other officer is sympathetic, though disappointed. The protagonist stews about what to do next. There is a line about how the powerful radars in his jet can cook a man alive, but it would take hours against a target standing completely still. Eventually, he comes upon an idea. He pleads with the other officer to requisition more refined kerosene. The man is reluctant, but eventually does so.

The climax of the story comes with the protagonist once again facing the German squadron. This time, though, he has the means to defeat them. He accelerates to maximum speed, using the afterburners to go supersonic, and rockets straight through their formation. The shock wave of the supersonic boom is too much for the fragile biplanes, and their wings are ripped to pieces. The entire squadron is destroyed mid-air.

The story closes with the protagonist landing his jet one last time, and the exultant officer and others cheering the dramatic victory over a foe they thought unbeatable.

Publication Timeframe

I'd guess this one would be late 1950's to early 1960s. That would seem to be about the right era for the technology of the protagonist's jet.

marked as duplicate by Adamant, Kyle Jones, DJClayworth, user14111 short-stories Mar 19 '17 at 2:41

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • It is. The story I was looking for was in that other question. I linked to it in my answer below. Not sure what protocol here is - i.e. marking mine a duplicate, or closing it altogether. Whatever is the appropriate action. – Helbent IV Mar 19 '17 at 2:08
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    I remember this story. I was disappointed that the pilot could think of nothing better to do than fight the equivalent of the Red Baron. As far as I remember he never even thought of trying to end the war or prevent World War two. – M. A. Golding Mar 26 '17 at 5:08

It's Hawk Among the Sparrows, by Dean McLaughlin. I just ran across a previous question/answer about the story that I somehow missed in my search. My question will need to be marked as a duplicate.

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