CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

target, rather than into steel-plated sides.

The maneuver took the Kerry out of a direct flight path into the

carrier’s fueling port, where grapes were still frantically pumping

avgas aboard, but would bring it down squarely in the center of

Jefferson’s four-acre flight deck, where one Hawkeye, three Hornets, and

four A-6s were being refueled and rearmed after the day’s early morning

operations. A detonation among those aircraft would cause a major fire

on the flight deck, a fire that would spread instantly to the avgas

fumes to starboard.

The Kerry had just reached the apex of its climb, coast, and dive when

the second Phoenix missile streaked in from behind. The explosion felt

as though it had struck the bridge, a savage bang that shattered windows

and knocked several of the bridge watch-standers to their knees.

Hadley stood there for a long, desperate second or two, waiting for the

far larger roar of exploding aviation fuel to follow. The roar did not

come, and after a moment he allowed himself to breathe again.

God in heaven, but that, that had been close.

0908 hours (Zulu +3)

Tomcat 207 Over Arsincevo Tomboy hauled her F-14 into another hard turn,

trying to follow the fleeing Mig as it twisted hard toward the north.

She was three miles behind it now, and it was little more than a speck.

.. though Hacker had a solid lock on the aircraft with their AWG-9.

Unfortunately, she had only the one Sidewinder left, and the target was

jinking so sharply across the folded landscape that she was having

trouble getting a lock.

Tone! “Fox two!”

Her last missile streaked toward the target.

0908 hours (Zulu +3)

Flogger 550 Over Arsincevo Turning in his seat, Ivanov saw the missile

arrowing toward him.

Cursing, he dragged his aircraft hard to the left and punched in the

afterburners–normally not a good idea when being pursued by a

heat-seeker, but he needed altitude, fast, and the only way to get it

was–as the Americans said–to “go ballistic.”

As he climbed almost vertically, he cut his burners and released a

string of flares, letting his Mig fall over onto its back with the nose

pointed almost directly at the approaching Tomcat. The Sidewinder,

deprived of its easy, hot targets, nosed over as it simple-mindedly

pursued a flare, missing Ivanov’s aircraft by a generous margin.

He grinned into his mask. This American, whoever he was, was good.

Schooled in the warrior’s mentality, Ivanov welcomed this head-to-head

exchange, the chance to test himself against another expert aviator. He

was glad he wasn’t facing one of the rumored female pilots employed by

the American battle group.

That would have been too easy, no challenge at all.

0909 hours (Zulu +3)

Tomcat 207 Over Arsincevo “He’s coming at us, head-to-head!” Hacker


“I think he wants to play chicken,” Tomboy replied. “Hold on!”

She pulled the stick back, climbing fast; the enemy plane went into a

climb at almost the same moment, and the two hurtled skyward, twisting

as they passed, rolling into the deadly aerial maneuver known as a

rolling vertical scissors. For an agonizing second, Mig and Tomcat flew

back-to-back, practically canopy-to-canopy, and Tomboy could pull her

head back and look “up” into the Russian’s cockpit, only a few deadly

yards away.

0909 hours (Zulu +3)

Flogger 550 Over Arsincevo Ivanov looked “up” and found himself scant

yards from the American Tomcat; he could see the pilot and his radar

intercept officer, their helmeted, visored heads tipped back to return

his stare. He was so close he could actually read the lettering picked

out on the F-14’s fuselage, just beneath the canopy: CDR JOYCE FLYNN


He frowned, puzzled. He could read English lettering fairly well. He

knew the name “Bruce,” but “Joyce”? What kind of a man’s name was


It sounded almost like a woman’s name. ..

0909 hours (Zulu +3)

Tomcat 207 Over Arsincevo For several deadly seconds, Mig and Tomcat

rolled around one another as they continued their climb, still

canopy-to-canopy. Tomboy cut her power and let her aircraft slew

sideways, coming within a hair of stalling and going into a pancake


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