My student had locked the missile onto the heat plume of the hostile aircraft and I could hear the familiar 'growl' signalling it's imminent departure.
But nothing happened.
We'd been flying for over 40 minutes and my trainee pilot had gradually become less talkative and less animated and, for someone who was heavily engaged in air combat with two other fast jets, this was a problem.
'You OK there, buddy?' I asked, as my student disengaged from the hostile aircraft and climbed skywards, out of the fight.
'I just think I could do it better, it didn't look right.' came the reply.
But I'd seen this before and I knew it wasn't good.
Air combat is exceptionally dynamic and often you are being subjected to over 6 times the force of gravity whilst trying to communicate with your wingman and manoeuvre your aircraft to kill the bad guy. It's full-on, calculated and focused aggression and right now, my student was taking the easy road.
Soon, fuel would dictate the end of the fight and we recovered back to the airfield where we debriefed the sortie before heading home. It had been a difficult time for this course and we had been trying to get their Air Combat phase completed for the past few weeks but poor weather was preventing us from doing so. As instructors, we were well aware that unless we finished them soon, apathy would start to set in.
That evening I got a call from my student.
'Sir, it's me, we flew together today - can I have a chat?'
'Sure can,' I replied 'Come on over - we can do that ‘Top Gun’ thing where we'll grab a couple of beers and go and walk on the beach. You can tell me how you are thinking of quitting and I can convince you stay!' I joked back at him.