CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

Scott looked at Magruder and nodded. Magruder pulled a sheaf of plastic

binders from his briefcase and passed them out to the others at the

table. “These, Madam Secretary,” he said, “are our estimates of the

CBG’s capabilities. In short, we estimate that they can continue normal

flight and patrol operations for ten days. If, however, they are forced

to fight a major battle–if Dmitriev launches an air strike against the

Jefferson, for instance, and they have to beat it off–that operational

window drops to three days. Less if they use mass attacks continued over

a period of time, which is traditional Russian strategy.”

“What if operations are rationed?” Waring asked. “You know, not flying

any missions at all unless they’re absolutely necessary?”

“Mr. Waring, that ten-day estimate takes into account only ‘necessary

operations.’ Minimal CAP–that’s Combat Air Patrol–with enough aircraft

up at any given time both to give warning of an approaching hostile

force and to be able to meet it in the air. Hawkeye and Prowler

electronic surveillance flights. We have to have the E-2Cs up round the

clock, or we’re sailing blind. Viking and helo ASW flights go off round

the clock, too, covering the entire battle group from hostile subs.

Anything less. ..” He stopped and shrugged. “We might as well hang out a

sign. “For sale. Used aircraft carrier. You haul it away.'”

“What about hardware?” Waring asked. “Missiles, stuff like that?”

“One major engagement could expend nearly everything they have aboard,

sir. But aviation fuel will be their major worry. Even at best, in

peacetime with a slow ops schedule, a carrier’s JP-5 stores are only

good for a couple of weeks.”

“And Dmitriev knows that,” Scott added. “I don’t believe for one second

his claim that the attack on our UNREP tanker was an accident. The

bastard was trying to sink her, partly to help block the channel, partly

because he knew she represented an additional two weeks of flying time

for our carrier planes.”

“How about food and water?” Heideman asked.

“That won’t be a major consideration, at least not for a while,”

Magruder told him. “They make their own fresh water. They may run out of

fresh fruit and stuff like that, but they can go for a good many months

with onboard stores.”

“Look, the fact of the matter is we can’t give in to Dmitriev’s

demands,” Scott said. “That’s extortion, pure and simple.”

“Well, what would you have us do?” Reed demanded. “We can’t go in and

get them out. You say they can’t last for long without fuel and

supplies. The Turks won’t let them into their ports. I see no

alternative but to recommend that they cooperate with the Russians!”

“Madam Secretary,” Scott said. “Do I need to remind you that these

people have attacked us? Sunk a civilian ship working under charter with

our fleet? Blockaded that fleet? Strafed one of our helicopters assigned

to UN duty? Fired on our aircraft? Threatened us with an attack against

that fleet?”

“Then give me an alternative that I can present to the President!”

“Simple,” Scott said, folding his arms across his chest. “We send in the

Marines. Secure the whole of the Dardanelles Straits, from the Aegean to

the Black Sea. Send in Seabee units and SEALS to blast the wreckage out

of the channel. We move another carrier–the Eisenhower is already in

the Med–into the Aegean and fly support missions across Turkish

territory, and to hell with what Ankara says. We can also fly aerial

refueling missions off the Ike and extend the Jefferson’s onboard


“Meanwhile, the Marines hold the channel open against possible repeat

Russian attacks until the wreckage is removed and our ships and people

are out of that death trap!”

“The Turkish government may take a dim view of our invading their

territory,” Heideman said.

“Then they can provide access to our ships,” Scott said. “Also, we have

MEU-25 already in the Black Sea, with the Guadalcanal and her escorts.

They would be in an excellent position to grab the Black Sea end of the

Bosporus and begin clearing operations. I would suggest bringing in

MEU-21 for operations on the Aegean coast.”

“The Army should have a piece of this,” General Kirkpatrick, the Army

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