CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

He gestured toward a speaker mounted on the bulkhead, and Coyote became

aware of the crackle of voices emerging from it. “I’m closing, I’m

closing with bandit India-three,” Dixie’s voice was calling. “Range

seven miles!”

“Watch yourself,” another voice, the voice of the air control officer

aboard the Hawkeye, warned. “You have multiple bogeys swinging in on

your six.”

“Okay! Okay, I see him!” Dixie replied.

Damn. Who did he see, Coyote wondered? The guy he was chasing, or the

“multiple bogeys” closing on his tail?

“Badger!” Dixie’s voice called, suddenly anxious. “Badger! Where are


“Missile! Missile! Bandits have launched!”

“We confirm bandit launch at one-zero-zero-niner and thirty seconds,”

one of Crosby’s officers said. “Weapons free!”

“Gotta go, Tombstone,” Coyote said into the headset’s mike. “Looks like

we have a situation developing here.”

“Go take care of it. We won’t be moving until we know we have air


“We’ll keep you posted. You keep your head down, Stoney, you hear me?

The natives aren’t as friendly as we thought.”

“Roger that.” He could hear Tombstone’s grin on the other end of the

radio link. “And you take care of my boys and girls! You’ve got the

wing, Coyote.”

“I copy. Dog House out.”

“I’ve got one on my tail!” Dixie was calling from the bulkhead speaker.

“Break left, Dixie!” Badger replied. “Break left! Fox two!”

It sounded like Dixie and Badger had just flown smack into a

full-fledged dogfight.


Thursday, 5 November 1010 hours (Zulu +3)

Tomcat 218

The bandits had dropped out of nowhere, it seemed, coming in between

Dixie and the now-distant Jefferson, their approach masked by jamming

and the confusion of the moment.

“Break left, Dixie!” Badger yelled in his earphones. “Break left!! Fox


The cry Fox two warned that Badger had just released a heat-seeking

Sidewinder missile; his order to break left meant either that he was

trying to set up a shot, with Dixie pulling the bad guy into position

when he swung left, or that any other maneuver might expose Dixie’s hot

exhaust to the Sidewinder. .. and break its lock on the bandit with some

rather serious consequences for Dixie.

Hauling back and to the left on his stick, he pushed the rudder over and

dragged the Tomcat around in a hard turn to port. Sea and sky tilted on

end, and both he and Mickey began grunting heavily, fighting against the

rapid buildup of G-forces in their lower bodies. As his F-14 came around

through nearly 180 degrees, he caught a glimpse of his pursuer, a black,

winged speck a mile and a half behind him, reaching hard to match his


“I see the missile!” Mickey yelled. “I see it! Coming in at seven

o’clock! Pop flares!”

“I’m on it.” Dixie hit the flare release, spilling a line of white-hot

flares to confuse the incoming heat-seeker. A moment later, the missile

streaked past, flashing beneath the Tomcat’s belly and off to the right.

“Suckered him!” Dixie yelled.

“Who are these guys?” Mickey wondered, twisting in his seat to get a

better look at the other aircraft.

“Don’t know,” Dixie said. He kept the stick hard over, maintaining a

steady eight Gs of acceleration in the turn. “Where the hell is Badger?”

“There. Nine o’clock, coming in on the bandit’s six.”

“Thank God. “Badger missed. That bandit’s popping flares, too.”

“Let’s see if we can help.” Leveling off at ten thousand feet, Dixie

sent the Tomcat arrowing back toward the other aircraft.

The bandit was coming toward them, nose on. They only had a second in

which to register each detail as it flashed past, but Dixie recognized

the bandit as soon as he could make out its twin stabilizer

configuration and the widely separated engine nacelles. Back in fighter

school, he’d studied silhouettes, films, and photos of all possible

aggressor aircraft, and he knew that one well.

Mig-29, “Fulcrum” in the NATO code list of hostile aircraft. A deadly

aircraft, capable of Mach 2.23 at high altitude, of climbing fifty

thousand feet in one minute, of out-turning, out-climbing, and

outmaneuvering nearly every combat aircraft in the Western arsenal.

Moments later, Badger’s gray Tomcat approached, still trailing the

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