CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

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“Black Leader, this is Bastion One-one-seven” sounded in his headset.

“Do you read me? Over.”

“Bastion One-one-seven, Black Leader reads. Go ahead.”

“We are being painted by American radar, almost certainly from their

naval AWACS.”

“What about ECM?”

“We have been jamming steadily for fifteen minutes, sir. The Americans

have been increasing the power of their scans and at this point are

probably burning through our interference. They will not be able to

judge our numbers, but they know we are here, and probably where we are


“That does not matter. They will not be concerned with us unless they

believe us to be threatening their battle group.”

“Just keep your ears sharp, Yevgenni,” the voice of Captain Oleg

Nikiforov added over the tactical channel. “Once they figure out what

we’re up to, they will be after us like a cat pouncing on mice.”

“The cats will find they’ve cornered a pack of wolves, Captain,” Ivanov

replied, and he heard the others chuckle in response.

As a military pilot, he had a healthy respect for American naval

aviators–the men, anyway; he’d flown with them in the Indian Ocean and

against them off Norway and could accept, with some few unspoken

reservations, the fact that they were the best in the world. This time

around, however, it was going to be different.

There would be no massed attacks against layered American carrier battle

group defenses, for one thing. That type of antiquated strategy had been

dictated by the old Soviet military command, back when they’d been faced

with the problem of how to wage war in the air, on the land, and both on

and under the sea against a technologically superior enemy, overcoming

them with forces whose only advantage lay in their numbers. No, the

first direct attack against the Americans would come only after their

battle group had been seriously weakened.

And weakening their forces was precisely the objective of today’s

low-level raid.

Ivanov thrilled to the sheer, joyous power of his machine. He was never

more alive than when he was in the cockpit of the sleek attack aircraft,

peering ahead across the broad, wedge-shaped nose known affectionately

to the aircraft’s pilots as utkanos, the duck nose. The Mig27, known as

“Flogger-D” in NATO’s code, was a venerable aircraft by now; it had

entered service with Frontal Aviation in 1974, and for most of that time

had been the mainstay of Soviet air-to-ground attack. Most pilots held a

genuine affection for the machine; up until its appearance, odd Mig

designation numbers had been reserved for fighters, while even numbers

identified attack planes. Like the American F-111, however, an attack

plane with the completely inappropriate F-for-fighter designation, the

Mig27 carried a somewhat confusing identifier. Pilots who liked the way

the plane handled, however, insisted that it was as fast and nimble as

most fighters and therefore carried exactly the right ID. Indeed,

besides his main armament of air-to-surface missiles, the Mig carried

both two AA8 infrared-homing missiles for air-to-air dog-fighting, as

well as a powerful six-barrel rotary cannon for close-in work. At need,

the Mig could play the fighter’s role, though Ivanov knew he would be at

a disadvantage if he found himself tangling with American Tomcats or


That was what the Mig29s in Bastion were for.

He checked the flight’s position on his terrain-mapping radar. Less than

ninety kilometers to go. It was too late for the Americans to stop them

now, even if they guessed what their true objective was.

There was still one remaining chance that the attack would be aborted,

and it was time now to find out, one way or the other. Reaching down, he

dialed his radio frequency selector to the channel assigned for


“Tower, Tower, this is Black One. How do you read me? Over.”

“Black One, Tower. We read you.”

“Dostoyevsky,” he said, the writer’s name serving as a code informing

Operations that the attack group was on course, on time, and ready to

proceed with the mission. The reply would be either “Tolstoy,” which

would mean abort and return to base, or. ..

“Chekhov,” the voice said. “I say again, Chekhov.”

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