CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

scant feet above the dark and oily waters. Striking the base of the

westernmost of the two huge concrete towers, the warhead triggered, one

hundred kilograms of high explosives detonating in a savage blast,

raising a vast cascade of white spray and hurling chunks of concrete far

out into the water.

Three seconds later, a second missile struck the tower. Those towers,

designed to exacting engineering specifications to support tremendous

weight or withstand hurricane-force winds, were simply not designed to

absorb that brutal and sudden a punishment. With both northern legs of

the suspension system damaged, the span between them sagged. The

hangers, the vertical wire ropes supporting the deck, began snapping,

first one by one, then in rippling, crashing volleys. The deck itself;

individual sections like shallow boxes and paved over with a

one-and-a-half-inch layer of mastic asphalt; the design provided

flexibility, as it had to on an engineering project of such scope, but

it also allowed the two explosions to generate shock waves that rippled

out from the towers, with the deck itself convulsing in a titanic game

of crack-the-whip.

Vehicles and people alike were scattered like toys as the asphalt

flexed, tossing them into the air and smashing them down again. A third

missile detonated against the eastern tower, somewhat higher up the leg

than the first blast, gouging through to the pillar’s hollow core. With

a vast and thunderous shudder, the northern leg of the tower shattered,

cross struts crumbling, suspension cables writhing, hangers snapping

apart like rapid-fire gunshots. Three more missiles arrowed in out of

the north in rapid succession, two striking the span near the eastern

side, the third hitting the western pylon once again. The deck tilted

even more precipitously to the north, spilling vehicles and people into

the yawning gulf below.

With the failure of the northern half of the suspension rig

accelerating, the southern half began to go, too. The eastern tower

sagged heavily toward the north, an avalanche of splintering concrete

cascading into the water. The entire thousand-meter-plus center span of

the northernmost of the Bosporus bridges whipsawed back and forth, the

oscillations building until the main cables snapped, spilling the box

sections of the deck into the strait far below.

The navigable channel up the center of the Bosporus was not wide, a few

hundred yards across at most, and as the smoke and spray cleared,

observers aboard nearby vessels could see that it was almost completely

blocked by fallen deck boxes and a vast and incoherent tangle of wire

rope. Miraculously, there were survivors, struggling in the wreckage as

small craft moved in to begin rescue efforts; the screams of the injured

mingled with the continuing splash and crack of falling concrete, and

the mournful hootings of ship horns.

Almost immediately, a Turkish naval vessel, the guided-missile patrol

boat Gurbet, moving toward the center of the channel at high speed,

shuddered, then slewed to a dead stop, two of her four propeller shafts

fouled by the unraveling strands of wire rope that stretched above and

below the surface of the water like a deadly trap designed expressly for


Clearing out that tangle of debris would require a major engineering

effort. .. and weeks, possibly months of time.

And until the wreckage of the fallen bridge could be cleared, no vessels

would be passing between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. .. or to

the Aegean Sea beyond.

1006 hours (Zulu +3)

Tomcat 218

At eight thousand feet, Dixie and Mickey flashed southwest between the

impossibly blue sky above and the deep, ultramarine sea below. Glancing

right, he could see “Badger” Cunningham and “Red” Burns off his

starboard wing in Tomcat 210.

“I’m making multiple bogeys ahead,” Mickey said. “At least ten. .. ah,

make that twelve contacts in three groups.”

“Roger that, BARCAP Two,” Watch Dog replied. “We’ve got them.”

The radar picture ahead was clearing slightly as the Tomcats drew closer

to their contacts, until the F-14s, AWG-9 radars gave a better picture

than the more powerful but far more distant electronics of the orbiting

Hawkeye. With the onboard data link, Tomcats and Hawkeye could share an

incredible volume of two-way data, all of which the Hawkeye was relaying

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145

Categories: Keith Douglass