CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

SSN still in service with the Russian navy. The first Soviet undersea

vessel to be a match for the sophisticated submarine technologies of

England and the United States, it was nonetheless the result of a number

of compromises. .. not the least of which was the fact that the same

power plant used to drive the smaller, lighter Victor II was used on

this larger submarine, which translated to a slower top speed and more

sluggish handling.

Worse, Kislovodsk had been one of the last of the Victor IIIS to come

off the ways at Komsomolsk in 1985, and he–Russians always thought of

their ships as he–was decidedly showing his age. There were few

alternatives, but Vyatkin found the obvious one of flight to be

distasteful in the extreme. To allow the hunter wolf to be chivied away

from its prey by the squawking of crows. .. no. There was another way. A

better way, one that might help unite this crew that had been beaten on

the day it had set out to sea, and perhaps instill in these men

confidence in their commanding officer.

“Torpedo room reports Kukla loaded, Comrade Captain.”

“Open outer torpedo doors, and prepare to fire.”

“At once, Comrade Captain.”

He might be old and slow, Vyatkin thought, but the creaking dedushka

Kislovodsk had a few tricks left in him Yet.

1758 hours (Zulu +3)

Control room, U.S.S. Orlando “Captain! Sonar! He’s opening his outer


“Damn!” Lang slapped the intercom switch on the console just above his

head. “Torpedo room! Stand by tubes one and three!”

“Tubes one and three ready, Captain,” a seaman’s voice came back. He

sounded young. .. and scared. “ADCAP, standard war shot.”

“Sonar! What’s he doing?”

“Hard to tell, Captain,” Davies replied. “It’s hard to hear through the


Lang cursed. This was bad, damned bad. Range to the Jefferson was still

over twenty nautical miles, too far for a standard 533mm torpedo, but

easily within the range of the big Russian 650mm monsters. Those babies

could travel over fifty miles at thirty knots. .. or twenty-seven miles

at fifty, and they packed one-ton warheads, powerful enough to do

serious damage to the Jeff if one connected.

Fire only if fired upon.

But that particular Rule of Engagement couldn’t apply here, not to

submarine combat. To wait for the other guy to get the first shot in was

suicide. Orlando was here, astern of the Victor, precisely to keep the

son of a bitch from firing the shot that might sink or cripple the


And all Lang had to go on was what his sonar operator was hearing amid

the churning, ping-echoing water ahead.

Naval careers were made and broken by decision points like this one. He

was in a perfect firing position. Moments before, when the helicopters

had started their deafening pinging of the contact ahead, he’d ordered

Orlando to drop back a ways, partly to stay out of the sonar barrage,

partly to set the Orlando up with a good shot if the need arose.

The need, apparently, had arisen; if he guessed wrong, though, firing

recklessly before he was sure, he could start a war.

The hell with that. If he guessed wrong, erring on the side of caution,

he would be responsible for the deaths of hundreds aboard the Jefferson.

“Weapons Officer!” he snapped.

“Tubes one and three, loaded and ready, sir.”

“Fire one!”

Orlando’s weapons officer slapped the topmost of four red switches on

the bulkhead console. The deck lurched slightly, and a light on the

console winked red.

“One away, sir. Running hot and true.”

“Fire three!”

Again, the lurch transmitted through the deck.

“Three away. Running time for number one is twelve seconds.”

He found himself counting off the seconds in melodramatic anticipation.


Friday, 30 October 1758 hours (Zulu +3)

Control room, Russian Submarine Kislovodsk Kukla–the Russian word meant

puppet–was a decoy, a standard 533mm torpedo with the warhead removed

and a sophisticated packet of microelectronics tucked away in its place

that broadcast a convincing facsimile of the submarine’s sound

signature. The ploy would not be successful with active sonar, of

course–the Americans would be able to tell from the echoes whether a

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