CDR Chip “Biff’ King, Commanding Officer of the VF-213 Black Lions, and his RIO, LCDR Mike "Tung" Peterson are flying Lion 101 on a history making mission over Afghanistan on 5 November 2001.
After attacking targets near Mazar-e-Sharif and expending their bomb load, Lion 101 leaves the target area to return home aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). Suddenly, over the radio comes a desperate call for air support. A small American Special Operations team was coming under attack by hundreds of Taliban troops. Unless help arrived soon, the Americans and their Afghan partners would be overrun and killed.
Biff and Tung responded to the beleaguered Combat Controller on the radio by informing him that they'd already dropped all their ordinance but they had a full gun with 600 rounds of high explosive 20 mm ammo. The controller, call sign "Tiger," with urgency in his voice asked for anything that Lion 101 could provide. The weather in the area wasn't the best and in order for Lion 101 to be accurate and effective, they were going to have to get below the clouds to an altitude that was well below pre-set combat minimums.
After some anxious minutes and several requests for clearance by Tung, the crew finally received permission from AWACS to press their attack below the hard deck. Over the next several minutes Biff and Tung dive on the attacking Taliban forces. With each strafing run the gun of the big Tomcat slowed the enemy as high explosive incendiary rounds set vehicles on fire and took a heavy toll on the enemy troops.
In a conversation with Biff during the research phase of the painting, he shared a unique story with the artist. "By the time we finished an attack run we were often pulling out of our 540 knot dive at or below 2000 feet. We could clearly see the muzzle flashes and smoke trails from RPG's as the terrorists were firing back at us. I remember thinking to myself how strange it was for us to be in a modern fighter jet in battle against Taliban fighters on horseback. It was as if "Buck Rogers" was facing the "Arabian Knights"."
Lion 101's fire was effective. More importantly, it pinned the enemy down long enough for Tiger and the friendly forces to break contact and retreat out of the kill area. This mission was the first time in the F-14's career that the Tomcat used its gun in a Close Air Support role with troops in contact.
In Rick's painting, Biff and Tung are unleashing their F-14 cannon. They are near or below the surrounding terrain and you can clearly see the enemy advancing up the river valley. Other details you'll notice is the high speed vapor breaking off the wings, the gun gas coming off the nose of the Tomcat and enemy vehicles already on fire.Signature on all but the Open Edition:CDR Chip “Biff’ King - Commanding Officer of the VF-213 Black Lions