CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass


While the American was dealing with the heat-seeker, perhaps he could

slip through down on the deck.

0905 hours (Zulu +3)

Tomcat 216 Over Arsincevo “We missed,” Cat said. “He suckered us with a


“I’m going after him,” Dixie said. His heart was pounding, his breath

coming in short, hard gasps behind his oxygen mask.

“Watch it, Dix!” Cat warned. “He’s launched!”

“I see it!” Dixie adjusted his course slightly, angling straight toward

the oncoming missile, holding steady for an agonizing three seconds. ..

then cutting back on his throttle while simultaneously popping flares.

Another few seconds passed, and then the missile streaked past, a

hundred feet off; there was a loud thump from astern as the AA-8’s

proximity fuse detonated the warhead, but no indication of damage. Dixie

rolled hard to port, pulling the F-14’s nose around, centrifugal force

mashing him down into his seat as he whipped around through sixty

degrees of the compass. He’d lost sight of the other plane.

Now where the hell?. ..

“Tomboy, this is Dixie! Where are you?”

“About five miles behind you, at base plus five.” That put her at eight

thousand feet, slightly above 216.

“We just missed a Flogger coming through the line. Did you see him?”

“Negative on that, but we’ll keep an eye out.”

“Rog.” He thought the Flogger must have dived; that’s what he would have

done in that situation–give the opposition something to think about,

then head for the deck, where the ground clutter might hide him from

enemy search radar. “I think he’s on the deck. What’s your warload,


“We’re down to one AIM-9,” Tomboy replied. “We’re empty on the 54s.”

“Shit. Okay. If you spot him, coordinate with Cat. We have two Phoenixes

left, and maybe we can take him if you can spot him.”


Dixie pulled into a turn, giving Cat a chance to probe the entire area

with the F-14’s AWG-9, as well as to query the Hawkeyes that were

orbiting further south, outside of the main battle area. The AWG-9 had

the impressive capability known as “look down-shoot down,” meaning it

could pick a target out from the background clutter even when it was

mingled with returns from the sea or ground. But Cat would need time to

narrow her beam and carry out a search.

The problem, he reflected, in fighting a major engagement in such a

tightly confined area was that you didn’t have much of a second chance

against leakers. Once they slipped past you, they were into your inner

defensive zone in minutes or seconds, and then it could well be too


They had to find that Flogger, and fast!

0906 hours (Zulu +3)

Flogger 550 Over Arsincevo Major Ivanov had pulled out of his dive a

scant five hundred feet above the sea, then dropped even lower, skimming

above the fuel tank farm of Arsincevo at an altitude of less than fifty

meters. He swung left, avoiding the fractionating towers of the

refinery. Directly ahead, the sea was crawling with ships, boats, and

the odd-looking tracked vehicles the American Marines used as landing


There were targets there. .. tempting targets, but Ivanov was after

bigger game. He’d already noted the position of the biggest game of all,

a big, fat aircraft carrier slipping in close to the fueling dock off


He was carrying two AS-7 air-to-surface missiles under his Mig’s wings,

the kind of big, ugly ship-killers that NATO called “Kerry.” If he could

slip that pair of ship-killing one-hundred-kilogram warheads into a

carrier while it was taking on fuel. ..

And he was now well inside the Americans’ fighter envelope. It was

certainly worth a try.

0906 hours (Zulu +3)

Tomcat 216 Over Arsincevo “Got him!” Cat called. “He slipped past us

after he popped that Aphid.”

“Where is he?”

“Down on the deck, like you said. Bearing zero-five-five. Shit!”


“He’s locking onto the Jeff!”

“Guide me onto him, Cat. We’ve got to take him down!”

“Right. Tomboy, this is Cat. You copy?”

“Cat, Tomboy.” Her voice sounded strained, as though she were enduring a

high-G turn. “Copy.”

“Tomboy, we’ve spotted our leaker.” Cat gave her the coordinates of the

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