CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

Flogger that had broken past. “It looks like he’s trying for a radar

lock on the Jefferson!”

“Okay, Hacker and I’ve got him. You’re a little closer, though, and I

need a minute to lock him with my Sidewinder.”

“Just cover us, Tomboy,” Dixie said, “in case we miss this one. We’re

not getting another chance!”

0907 hours (Zulu +3)

Flogger 550 Over Arsincevo Range three miles–practically

point-blank–and if that carrier was taking on fuel, as Ivanov thought

it must be, the detonation of two antiship warheads ought to send up a

fireball powerful enough to shake the dachas at Yalta.

He heard the tone of radar lock, and his thumb came down on the firing

switch. There was a hard bump as the first four-hundred-kilogram Kerry

dropped free, its solid fuel motor igniting. Instantly, Ivanov locked

with the second missile. Fire!

Two ship-killers accelerated to Mach 1 in seconds, streaking across the

sea toward the helpless supercarrier.


Saturday, 7 November 0907 hours (Zulu +3)

Tomcat 216 Over Arsincevo “He’s launched!” Cat yelled. “One. .. no, two

cruise missiles, in the air!”

“He’s fired on the Jefferson,” Tomboy echoed over the tactical channel.

“Cat! Take them!”

Dixie yanked his thumb off the firing button that would have released

one of his two remaining Phoenix missiles. In the backseat, Cat wiped

the lock they’d just achieved on the Russian Flogger and was shifting

instead to the two tiny, fast-moving blips streaking out in front of the


The AIM-54C–together with the Tomcat’s AWG-9 radar-fire control

system–had been designed with two specific missions in mind. One was

the standoff intercept, allowing the Tomcat to target and kill enemy

aircraft approaching from a range of 120 nautical miles. The other,

however, was dictated by the ever-changing requirements of modern naval

warfare. Cruise missiles–large, relatively slow, but extremely deadly

ship-killers like the AS-7 Kerry–had emerged during the past decades as

the single deadliest threat to surface ships. The Phoenix and the look

down-shoot down AWG-9 had been designed with the express capability of

tracking and destroying large missiles in flight.

But with the high speeds and short response times that characterized

modern warfare, success or failure often hinged on one man’s reactions,

on his experience, on his training, and on his ability to separate a

great deal of confusing, even conflicting information, analyze it, and

do the right thing instantly.

Dixie didn’t have to think it through; he couldn’t. Traveling at the

speed of sound, the AS-7s would travel the three miles to the Jefferson

in just over thirteen seconds. He was five miles from the Flogger–a

flight time of a hair under five seconds for a Phoenix–but in five

seconds, the Kerrys would have traveled almost half the distance to the

carrier. Dixie had less time than that to decide that the Kerry missiles

had to be his target and not the Flogger, to abort his launch on the

Mig, and to let Cat lock onto the missiles and fire both AIM-54s.

“Take the missiles!” he yelled at Cat, an instant after Tomboy’s order.

But she was ahead of him, already punching the new target into the

computer. “Fox three!” she yelled, and a Phoenix shrilled off the

Tomcat’s launch rail. “Fox three!” she yelled again, and their last

missile streaked after its companion.

Dixie found he was holding his breath. He could see neither the Kerry

missiles nor the Mig that had launched them, but he could see the

Jefferson less than ten miles ahead, huge and gray and vulnerable.

And somewhere between him and the carrier, four missiles were flying a

deadly, high-speed race.

0907 hours (Zulu +3)

U.S.S. Thomas Jefferson Arsincevo fueling dock “Missiles incoming!” the

voice of someone in CIC yelled over the intercom. “From the southwest!”

Hadley spun just in time to see a white flash above the water halfway

between the beach and the fueling dock; he heard the crash of the

explosion a moment later. A second missile, dragging a vapor trail

through the air, arrowed across the water toward Jefferson’s exposed

starboard side. At the last instant, the missile seemed to skip, rising

high; the maneuver, often programmed into antiship missiles, was

designed to bring it down on the relatively unarmored topside of the

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