CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

For a time after that, he’d been back in FA–Frontal Aviation–on more

traditional assignments, flying ground-attack missions for Krasilnikov

against the Leonovist rebels. With two of the former Soviet Union’s

three aircraft carriers destroyed, and the third kept in careful

seclusion in its port facilities at Sevastopol, everyone in FA assumed

that the Russian aircraft carrier experiment was dead. If nothing else,

Russia was no longer a world power, neither able nor willing to project

military force to some far-off corner of a hostile globe. Something as

large, as expensive, and as complex as a nuclear-powered aircraft

carrier was a serious drain on the military’s fast-vanishing resources,

and with no strategic purpose to its existence, it would soon be

consigned to the wrecker’s yard.

And that, Ivanov reflected as he glanced briefly left and right,

checking the positions of the other Mig27s in his attack formation,

would have been a tragedy. Pobedonosnyy Rodina was a proud, noble

vessel, for all that he’d never yet left port for more than a brief

Black Sea shakedown. Operation Miaky had given him the chance to live


Ivanov had developed a feel for carriers during the years he’d served

aboard them in the naval aviation program. Despite the long-standing

rivalry between the Fleet and Frontal Aviation, he liked carrier

service. Rodina deserved better than rusting away at his moorings or

being broken into scrap to feed the starving, inefficient civilian

industries ashore. His affection for carriers and his love of naval

flying were shaped, as much as anything else, by the knowledge that he

was part of that elite fraternity shared by only a tiny handful of

aviators from Russia, Great Britain, France, the United States, and the

very few other countries whose navies operated aircraft carriers.

Fraternity. The word he used was bratstvo, “brotherhood.” He’d heard,

though, that the Americans had begun allowing Women to fly carrier

aircraft. He snorted behind his oxygen mask. Women? The very idea was

preposterous. During the long Soviet reign, women had been promised full

equality with men, but that was an idea that had never really been

reflected by the real world, one composed more of words than of

substance. In the years since the collapse of the Soviet government,

there’d been an ultraconservative backlash against the whole concept of

women’s rights; female equality with men was an idea linked inextricably

in the public mind with the Communists, and there was a tendency now to

relegate women to the kitchen and a select few professions outside the

home–actresses and street sweepers and doctors and the like.

Ivanov grinned. Like most fighter pilots of his acquaintance, he thought

of women as simple and delightful perquisites of his profession, the

faster and hotter the better. As far as he was concerned, women belonged

in bed, naked and with legs welcomingly spread, not in the cockpit of a

jet aircraft.

He thought he would like to meet some of the American women aboard the

Thomas Jefferson, however. If even half of the scandalous stories he’d

heard were true. ..

Such a meeting seemed unlikely at best, just now. Once again, politics

and the relentless tides of history were about to bring the American and

Russian navies into conflict, and if he met an American fighter pilot at

any time in the near future, it would be as an opponent, a minute,

wildly twisting speck trapped in the targeting reticle of his Mig’s HUD.

Pathetic. .. the thought of women attempting to meet men on equal terms

in combat. The idea was ludicrous in ground combat, since women were so

much weaker than men; it was even more ludicrous in air combat, for the

demonstrable fact that women simply didn’t have the brains for the

highly technical aspects and details of flying high-performance jet

aircraft. He’d heard that several American women had been shot down over

the Kola; if Black Flight encountered any today, it would be an even

more complete slaughter. In the Kola, the Americans had been flying

against second-rate units and rear-echelon squadrons, the leftovers

after the debacle in and around Norway. Black Flight, and the attendant

formations code-named Bastion and Flashlight, were made up of combat

aviators scoured from Loyalist units all over Russia and were comprised

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