CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

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

and home.

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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