CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

“Confirm Chekhov,” he replied. The mission was on! “Proceeding as


Switching back to his tactical channel, he contacted the other five

aircraft of Black Flight. “The word is Chekhov, men,” he said, and the

relief he felt as he said it was almost palpable.

“Excellent!” Piotr called. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a long


“Radio silence from now on,” he warned. “Vsevaw harashiva y pabeda!”

Good luck, and victory.

The flight of deadly Mig27s arrowed toward the still-invisible coast of


0957 hours (Zulu +3)

E2-C Hawkeye Tango 61 Over the Black Sea “Dog House, Dog House, this is

Watch Dog Six-one. Do you copy, over?”

Lieutenant Arnold Brown checked again the sweep of green-white fuzz and

blips on his main display screen. There was no doubt about it. Something

big–several somethings, in fact–were moving out there, over one

hundred miles to the southwest.

“Watch Dog, this is Dog House,” the voice of the Operations watch

officer replied. “Go ahead.”

“I have a contact, designated Mike One-five, bearing two-zero-five,

range one-zero-eight. There is heavy, repeat, heavy ECM, but I believe

the contact to be multiple air targets down on the deck.”

“Copy that, Watch Dog. We’ve got your screen up here in front of us now.

How long you been tracking them?”

“Five, maybe six minutes, Dog House. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t

picking up waves.”

“Met says the sea’s flat and calm today, Watch Dog, so whatever you

have, it’s a hard target. Besides, I doubt that the Ukes are jamming to

keep us from seeing waves off the Turkish coast.”

“Ah, roger that.”

Brown puzzled a moment at Ops’ assumption that the targets were

Ukrainian. On their current heading, they could have come from either

Odessa or Sevastopol; the reciprocal of their course drew a line lying

almost directly between those two cities on the map. They could as

easily be Russian aircraft as Ukrainian.

The real question, though, was what were they up to? With all of that

jamming, it was clear they didn’t want the Americans–or anybody else,

for that matter–to see what they were up to. They weren’t threatening

the CBG. They weren’t anywhere near the battle group. If Brown had been

ordered to take a guess, he’d have sworn they were lining up for an

attack on the Bosporus. “Watch Dog, Watch Dog, this is Dog House.”

“Dog House, Watch Dog. Go ahead.”

“Hey, Twenty XO is down here, and he wants to know if you think those

bogeys are setting up for an attack on Istanbul.”

Brown grinned. Twenty XO meant Commander Grant, the executive officer of


“Tell the Coyote that that’s a big-time roger,” he said. “Either

Istanbul or the straits themselves would be my guess.”

“Could it be a practice run, Watch Dog?”

“Dog House, there’s no way to tell that until they goddamn launch!”

“Ah, copy that. Wait one, Watch Dog.”

“Whatcha got, Lieutenant?” Lieutenant Commander Jake Garner, Watch Dog

Six-one’s commander, asked over the ICS.

“Bogeys on the road to Istanbul, Commander,” he replied. “I’m on the

horn to Jeff and they have me on hold.”

“What, the Russkis are attacking Turkey?” Garner asked. “That doesn’t

make much sense.”

“Could be a training exercise,” the enlisted radarman at Brown’s side

put in. “You know, our subs are always practicing attack runs on

friendly ships, just for practice, like.”

“Yeah, but then the target doesn’t know he’s the target,” Brown said

thoughtfully. “If I were the Turkish air defense command, I’d be

freaking right about now, but good.”

“Suppose it’s not for practice?” Garner asked. “What could they be after

down there?”

“We have some UNREP ships coming through the straits about now,” Brown

said. He punched several keys, changing the scale of the radar map

display until the Turkish coast in the vicinity of the northern mouth of

the Bosporus was just visible. Though the storm of radar interference

extended all the way to the mainland, it was thin enough in the south

for him to see strong returns from several ships emerging from the

straits. Most of those would be Turkish vessels, but one bore the ID tag

of an American UNREP fuel tanker, the Falcon Patriot. “I suppose if they

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