CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

target was 6.4 meters long or 104. Still, Captain First Rank Vyatkin had

enormous faith in the effectiveness of confusion as both weapon and

tactic in combat. If Kislovodsk cut his engines at the same moment he

launched the Kukla, there would be several moments of confusion. When

their passive sonar receivers picked up the sound of the SSN moving off

at top speed, they would almost certainly stop pinging and listen,

trying to get what information they could about the sub’s new course and


And in those critical few moments, before they realized that they were

tracking an electronic decoy, he would bring Kislovodsk onto a new

heading and slip out from beneath the very noses of the American ASW

forces. A simple maneuver, but an effective one. He’d seen it used

successfully more than once, on boats he’d served aboard as a junior

officer during the Cold War.

“Fire Kukla!” he ordered. There was a hiss as the torpedo slid clear of

the tube on a blast of compressed air.

Aleksei Vyatkin and the men with him on the Kislovodsk’s control room

deck never heard the approach of the two American torpedoes. They were

coming straight out of the sub’s baffles, for one thing, and for another

the water around the submerged vessel was filled with the echoing pings

from the helicopters’ dipping sonars, and the Victor III’s aging

electronics suite was hard-pressed to separate the cascading signals

from one another in any kind of order that made sense to the human


The first ADCAP torpedo, wire-guided by an operator aboard the Orlando,

passed just beneath the Kislovodsk’s starboard stern plane and slammed

into the aft trim tank about ten meters forward of the screw. Three

hundred kilograms of high explosive detonated with a roar of white noise

detected by every sonar within hundreds of miles.

The second Advanced Capabilities torpedo struck the Victor III’s

vertical stabilizer, vaporizing the teardrop-shaped towed-array sonar

housing, smashing the steering mechanism and tearing away the

eight-bladed screw.

Normally, one submarine firing at another from the target vessel’s

baffles would have sent the wire-guided ship-killers on long, looping

courses that would bring them in on the target’s port or starboard side.

This increased the likelihood of a kill, both by presenting the incoming

torpedoes with a larger target, and by exposing the most vulnerable

sections of the target sub, the large compartments forward and

amidships, to attack. This time, however, the attacker had gone for a

straight-in shot; steering the ADCAP torpedoes in by wire across a

roundabout attack path would use up precious minutes during which the

Victor III could launch his own torpedoes at the Jefferson.

That single small note of urgency saved the Victor’s crew–some of them,

at least. As the after trim tank and three after bulkheads collapsed, a

wall of water smashed its way forward through the main engine room, the

switchboard room, and the reactor compartment. Twelve of the eighty-five

men aboard were killed as the after compartments flooded, but watertight

hatches were dogged shut and the sea’s invasion of the Victor was halted

just abaft the auxiliary machine room, stores hatch, and aft escape

trunk. The lights failed, plunging everyone aboard into a screaming,

panicking darkness, then returned as emergency batteries came on-line.

Vyatkin’s palm came down on the alarm Klaxon, and he scooped up a

microphone. “Emergency surface!” he yelled, as the Victor lurched

heavily to port, trembling with the inrush of hundreds of tons of

seawater. “Blow all ballast!”

Kislovodsk shuddered again, harder, and the deck canted sharply as the

stricken attack sub rolled back to starboard, flinging crewmen and

anything else not tied down across the deck. With a shrill scream of

escaping air under high pressure, the water in the sub’s ballast tanks

was blasted into the surrounding sea.

“Pressurize the aft compartments!”

“Sir, the pressurization feed pipelines-”

“Force air into every compartment you can, damn it! We’ve got to fight

the flooding!”

Vyatkin clung to the railing circling the periscope well as the vessel’s

bow came up. Everything, everything depended on how much of Kislovodsk’s

stern was flooded, on how many compartments might yet be sealed off and

still contain air, on whether or not the flooding could be contained by

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