port-side missile had a solid lock on the target now, though it was
still just beyond the weapon’s twenty-kilometer range, Somewhere further
out and higher up, “Flashlight,” another Mig27 with a laser designator
pod, was illuminating the target for the entire attack squadron.
The blurred impression of water flashing beneath Ivanov’s keel flashed
suddenly from blue to browns, grays, and greens. He was over the beach
now, thundering above peasants’ stone huts and tangled complexes of
larger-scale architecture. Black Flight’s sonic booms must be rattling
windows in their wake. For several seconds, he hurtled above the
brown-streaked earth, and then he was over water once more, this time
flashing low above the dark waters of the northern mouth of the Bosporus
Straits. A pair of ships appeared ahead, a long, gray, knife-prowed
destroyer and a far larger and clumsier-looking tanker, painted black
with a white superstructure. Ivanov glimpsed the American flag
fluttering from its truck.
Then he was past both vessels. He glanced down at both his radar display
and his threat warning indicators, half expecting the Turkish destroyer
to pop a SAM up his tailpipe, but there was no reaction from the
Perhaps they’d managed to catch Turks and Americans alike by surprise.
A warning light winked on. He was within range now of the primary
target. Since Turkish interceptors would be in the area at any moment,
the mission parameters called for launch at maximum range. He
double-checked his target lock, then brought his thumb down on the
firing button. “Black One, missile away!” he called.
His Mig lurched skyward as the Kedge missile, weighing some six hundred
kilograms, dropped from his left-side inlet duct pylons. Its solid-fuel
motor ignited with a yellow-white flash, and though the engine was
supposed to be smokeless, condensation in the air boiled into a sharp,
white contrail arrowing out ahead of the hurtling Mig.
“Black Three,” Mikhail Mizin, his wingman, called. “Missile away!” A
second contrail chased the first, swooping low toward the surface of the
strait before leveling off just a handful of meters above the water.
“Black Two! Missile launch.”
“Black Four. Aborting run. I have malfunction. ”
Damn. .. that was bad luck, but not unforeseen. Russian military
technology tended to be blunt, tough, and simple; when it had to be
complex, as in the case of Migs or AS14 missiles, there was always a
stubbornly unpredictable but high chance of equipment failure of some
sort. That was why attacks like this one were planned with multiple
redundancy in mind. Each aircraft in Black Flight would loose one of its
two missiles, then loiter until the damage could be assessed. If
necessary, the second missile would be used on the primary target; if
the initial attack proved successful, they would be free to seek targets
of opportunity for their second shots, before turning back for the north
He checked his indicators, noting that the missile was running hot and
smooth. Flight time to the target would be just over one minute.
Thursday, 5 November 1006 hours (Zulu +3)
The Bosporus Bridge The newest and northernmost of the three bridges
spanning the Bosporus was crowded this morning, with cars, trucks,
bicycles and scooters, ox-carts, and even people on foot. The big
show–the passage of the American aircraft carrier the week before–had
drawn a much larger mob, but there was always heavy traffic both ways
over the span, crossing in a few moments from one continent to another.
The bridge was of the same general design as others among the world’s
largest spans–the Golden Gate, the Verrazano Narrows, and, longest of
all, the Humber Bridge in northern England. It consisted of a gently
arcing deck suspended from two massive cables. Each of those main cables
was just less than a meter thick and composed of hundreds of tightly
woven wire ropes; the cables, in turn, were draped from two towers
rising from either side of the strait’s main shipping channel. The
towers were paired, hollow-core, reinforced concrete pillars straddling
the suspended deck; the span between the two towers across the channel
was just over a thousand meters.
The first Kedge missile arrowed south across the waters of the Bosporus,
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