CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

broadcasts, live, since the ships were all set up to receive satellite

news feeds. It was a little eerie, Dixie thought, that he’d been seeing

news programs broadcast from this spot on the Crimean coast just a few

hours ago. He’d been watching the TV monitor set up in the Vipers’ ready

room, and the explosion of cheers and applause when Tombstone appeared

briefly in one of the shots had been thunderous.

Washington might be undecided as to how to handle the Crimean mess, but

every man and woman aboard the ships of CVBG-14 and MEU-25 was ready to

go in now and kick ass until their people were returned safe.

The flak was growing thicker toward the mountains. .. but had vanished

along the coast west of Yalta. That in itself was a warning.

“Yeah, that’s where they’re coming from, Dix,” Cat told him. “I’ve got

four, no. .. make that five bogeys coming in at two-eight-five, range

fifty-two miles. I’m getting radar tone.” There was a pause. Then,

“Missiles! We have missiles incoming!”

“Tell me when!”

Seconds dragged past. “Hold it. .. hold it. .. okay! Zone five and break


Dixie threw the F-14 into a hard turn to port, slamming the throttle

forward to the final detent. As acceleration crammed him down against

his seat, he looked up. .. and saw two bright stars curving through the

night sky, coming straight at his head.

“Dropping chaff!” Cat said. .. and the missiles streaked past, passing

beneath the aircraft and out over the sea.

Dixie kept the afterburner on as he straightened out on a new heading,

flying directly toward the oncoming wave of hostiles.

“Poor Man, Poor Man,” Dixie called over the radio, using Jefferson’s

code name for this op. “This is Air Hammer One-three! We are taking


“Poor Man” had been adopted from the name of John Paul Jones’s most

famous command, the Bonhomme Richard. “Air Hammer, this is Poor Man,”

replied the voice of Jefferson’s Ops watch officer. “We copy Hammer

One-three taking fire. Can you confirm? Over.”

“Poor Man, Hammer One-four,” Badger’s voice said. “We confirm.”

“Poor Man, Hammer One-one,” Batman added. “Missile launch confirmed.

The bastards are shooting at us, too!”

“Air Hammer, this is Top Hat,” a new voice said. .. Admiral Brandt,

speaking from Jefferson’s CIC. “We confirm hostile action at

twenty-one-forty hours. Weapons free. I say again, weapons free!”

“Music to my ears,” Dixie said. “I’m tired of being shot at.”

“Radar lock,” Cat said. He heard it, the shrill, chirping warble in his

ear. “Let’s see if we can discourage them, Dix.”

“I’m with you.”

“Shall I do the honors?”

“By all means.”

“Okay. Bring us left a bit. There. That’s it. Hold it steady.” He could

hear the flick-flick-flick of console switches as she armed the Tomcat’s

AIM-54C missiles. “I have target lock, smack on the leader. I have tone.

.. Fox three!”

The Tomcat bucked skyward for a moment, even though Dixie had been ready

for it, as the 447-kilogram missile dropped clear. Its exhaust flared a

dazzling, blinding white as the missile slid off the F-14’s wing and

Dixie found himself staring briefly right up its tailpipe.

“Shit,” he said, blinking. His night sight was gone, shattered by that

flare of light.

Cat guessed what had happened. “Next time-” she said.

“Don’t look,” the two of them chorused together, completing her

statement. He blinked hard several times. He could still read his

instruments well enough, and that was all that mattered.

“Target two. .. lock,” Cat said. “Fox three!”

This time, Dixie closed his eyes as the Phoenix missile blasted away

from the F-14 and streaked into darkness.

They were carrying a total of six Phoenix air-to-air missiles, a full

load; their AWG-9 radar was capable of tracking six targets and the

missiles assigned to them simultaneously.

It was, Dixie thought, a strange kind of warfare. He couldn’t see the

targets, wouldn’t have been able to see them even in broad daylight at a

range of over fifty miles. Cat chose the first two targets; the

aircraft’s fire control computer chose the next four, in decreasing

order of threat to the aircraft. The elapsed time between her first Fox

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145

Categories: Keith Douglass