CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

shape thundered past the helicopter a few hundred feet overhead, then

broke into a sharp climb. “What the hell was that?”

Dombrowski shook his head. “Oh, shit, man! Who told those Navy bastards

they had the right-of-way?”

“Navy?” It took Cole a moment for that to register. “Oh, yeah, sure, the

flyboys watching the no-fly zone. Man, that guy scared the shit out of


“Guess he got bored flying CAP and decided to come hassle us,”

Dombrowski said.

Cole swore and brought the helicopter back on course. “Man, the moment

we get back, I’m reporting this one! That guy could’ve smashed us into a

cliff with his jet wash!”

But something was nagging at him. According to the op plan he’d seen,

the Navy fighters were supposed to fly racecourse tracks out over the

sea unless there was a specific reason for them to fly inland. A reason

like a no-fly zone violation.

“Dom,” He said, feeling cold. “Get on the horn. Raise Tara. Find out

what the hell a Navy F14 is doing in here.”

“Radio silence, LT. Remember?”

“I don’t give a shit about radio silence! I want to know what the hell

is going on!”

0930 hours (Zulu +4)

Tomcat 201 UN No-Fly Zone, Republic of Georgia “Bird Dog Two, this is

One,” Batman called. “Say again your last!”

“One, this is Two,” Dixie’s voice said, harsh with urgency and with the

stress of a high-G climb. “Target Sierra One is a Hind gunship. I say

again, Hind gunship.”

Batman pulled back on his stick, taking the Tomcat to eighteen thousand

feet. His VDI showed three targets now, Mason and Garrity’s F14, the UN

helo, and the bandit.

“Cat,” he radioed. “Do you concur?”

“Sorry, Batman. I didn’t see it. We’ve got a Zoo down here in the rocks

and I was working my board.”

“Bird Dog One, this is Dixie. I only had a glimpse but it was pretty

close. I made the weapons pylons.”

“Do you have it in sight now?”

“Negative,” Dixie replied. “Still in my climb. He’s behind us


At the top of his climb, Batman eased the stick left and put the nose

over, lining up the shot. On his HUD, the targeting pipper drifted

toward the bandit, moving up the mountain valley. At a range of just

over five miles, he still couldn’t actually see the target, but the

Tomcat’s computer had painted it on his VDI and again on his heads-up

display, a tiny circle of green light. Pipper and circle connected.

“Batman,” Malibu said over the ICS. “I’ve got something from UN

Two-seven. It’s garbled. .. something about they’re under attack.”

“That Hind must be taking shots at them. Tell ’em the cavalry’s on the

way,” Batman said. “I’ve got the bandit lined up. Target lock!”

He decided to go with a heat-seeker rather than a radar-guided AMRAAM.

With the target between his AWG9 radar and the valley floor, there was

too great a chance that the missile would accidentally lock onto the

ground instead of the Hind. The helicopter’s engine exhaust was hot, the

ground cold. It would make a perfect target beacon for the AIM9.

He snapped a selector switch and immediately heard the high-pitched

warble as one of his Sidewinder missiles “saw” the heat emitted by the


His thumb closed on the firing switch. “Fox two!” he called, giving the

alert that told all friendly aircraft that a heat-seeker was in the air.

With a piercing shoosh, a Sidewinder slid free of its rail beneath his

starboard wing, streaking toward the valley five miles away. As its

exhaust flare dwindled, Batman suddenly remembered the date and broke

into a grin behind his oxygen mask.

“Trick or treat, you sons of bitches,” he said.

0930 hours (Zulu +4)

UN Flight 27 UN No-fly Zone, Republic of Georgia “You raise Tara yet?”

Cole demanded.

“Yea, but things are all screwed up. Sounds like a Chinese fire drill

back-” Dombrowski stopped. He’d turned in his seat to illustrate his

point and stopped in mid-sentence, staring out of the Black Hawk’s

cockpit toward the rear.


“Shit! Missile! Missile! Incoming!”

Cole acted on instinct alone, bringing the Black Hawk’s nose up and over

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