CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

that nine miles in about thirty seconds. .. a small eternity when it

came to combat in the air.

“You got an idea about who they’re hunting?” Dixie asked. Likeliest, of

course, was that one missile had been tossed at Tomcat 218, and another

at 210.

“One’s definitely got our name on it,” Mickey said. “I think the other

one’s tracking Badger.”

“Fun for everyone,” Badger said. “Fun the whole family can enjoy!”

“Yeah, well, it’s time to start partying,” Mickey said. “Dixie! On my

call, break right hard! I’ll release the chaff!”

“Roger that.” He tightened his grip on the stick, trying to ignore the

unsettling prickling sensation at the back of his neck. There was a

terrible temptation to turn in his seat and try to see the incoming

missile, but Mickey had a much clearer and surer picture of what was

going on showing on his rear-seat display.

Range was down to one mile. Three seconds. ..

“Popping chaff!” Mickey yelled. “Break right.”

Chaff could be released both from the front seat and the back. Mickey

was dumping clouds of aluminized mylar slivers to leave Dixie free to

concentrate on the turn. Reacting at an almost instinctive level to

Mickey’s call, Dixie hauled the stick right and kicked in the rudder,

diving with the turn in order to pick up a critical bit of extra speed.

The G-forces piled on, crushing Dixie down against the hard back and

bottom of his seat. For just a moment, his vision narrowed slightly, the

only warning he was likely to get of the blackout he would suffer if he

didn’t ease up a little. He held the turn as long as he could, willing

the missile to miss them. By turning into the missile, he was using its

greater speed to defeat it, since it could not turn at Mach 3.5 as

sharply as he could turn at Mach 2. The chaff gave it a choice of

radar-bright targets, enough to confuse its microchip brain and maybe

give Dixie and Mickey an extra second or so to break out of the cone of

its radar vision.

The explosion jolted Dixie as hard as kicking in the afterburners had, a

solid thump from aft and left, accompanied by a piercing note, like the

ricochet on a TV Western. For a moment, the controls went soft and he

was afraid that they’d gone dead. .. but then he felt them biting the

air again. He scanned his threat warning panel. No fires. .. no

flameouts. .. no electrical failures. Christ, what had just happened?

“Mickey! You got any damage readouts?”

There was no answer from the backseat.

“Mickey! Yo! What’s happening back there?”

He checked the small rearview mirror, then twisted in his seat, trying

to see aft, but the layout of the F-14 cockpit was such that it was

almost impossible for the front-seat man to see his RIO, with his own

ejection seat back and the RIO’s instrument panel between them. If

Mickey was slumped down or forward. ..


Still no answer. He turned again in his seat, this time trying to check

both wings and his stabilizers. Yeah. .. they’d taken some shrapnel, all

right. The trailing edge of his left wing was showing some pretty bad

damage; the inboard high lift flap was shredded, and there was damage

both to the spoilers and the maneuver flaps as well. Three thin, smoky

white streams from beneath the center of his wing were almost certainly

avgas leaking from his port wing tank. He was conscious now of a shrill

whistle, the sound that all combat aviators recognize at once as air

escaping from their pressurized cockpit.

“Dixie, this is Badger! Do you copy?”

“Yeah.” He blinked behind his helmet visor. Things had happened so

quickly that he was a little surprised to find that statement true.

“Yeah, Badger, I’m here. I think we got a little shot up. And Mickey’s

not answering.”

“Hang on. We’ll be there, in a sec.”

“What about the other missile?”

“It’s gone.” Dixie could hear the relief in Badger’s voice. “We outran

the sucker.”

AA-9s packed enough solid fuel to give them a flight time of about two

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