The tactics described in this book do not represent actual U.S. Navy or NATO tactics past or present. Also, many of the code words and some of the equipment have been altered to prevent unauthorized disclosure of classified material.
This novel has been reviewed by the Department of Defense and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (N09N2), Industrial and Technical Security Branch, and is cleared for publication in accordance with Chief of Naval Operations Notice 08-301.
U.S. Navy images used in cover art and other illustrations appear by permission of the Navy Office of Information (OI-3), and Navy Visual News. No endorsement is expressed or implied.
The vessel revealed in that microsecond of illumination was strange-looking. The squat pyramid shapes of her superstructure and the steep angle of her mast gave the destroyer very little resemblance to any previous generation of warships.
The flare of light was as brief as a camera flash, gone almost the instant it appeared, and the ship was once again hidden against the dark waves of the Northern Arabian Gulf.
The ship’s name was USS
News magazines had taken to calling her a ‘ghost ship,’ and a growing body of Internet mythology credited the destroyer with capabilities that could only be managed by Hollywood special effects wizards. The reality was impressive enough, but it was considerably short of the myth, and well within the boundaries of known physics.
The vessel’s radar cross-section, infrared profile, and acoustic and magnetic signatures were all severely minimized, and a layer of phototropic camouflage made the ship difficult to detect and track visually. Even so, the
But hype didn’t matter now, and neither did speculation. USS
The deck gun fired again, and the strange-looking warship was again silhouetted against black water for an instant. The gun barrel was at maximum elevation, and the firing charge was reduced, making the trajectory very high and extremely short. The round crashed into the wave tops a few hundred yards ahead of the ship.
To either side of the bow, the ship’s smaller guns followed with their own lesser furies, hammering.50-caliber machine gun bullets and 25mm chain-gun rounds into the waves just forward of the vessel. It was a tactic of purest desperation.
The ship was surrounded by a field of naval mines, their numbers and locations hidden by black water. Any one of those mines could crack the hull of a warship like an eggshell. The guided-missile frigate USS
Under any other circumstances, the proper tactic would have been to maneuver at two or three knots, locating each mine with the ship’s Kingfisher sonar, and mapping a safe route to the edge of the minefield. But moving slowly was not an option now. The torpedo was getting closer by the second. It was locked on to the ship’s acoustic signature like a cybernetic bloodhound, and the deadly machine was following the trail with a ruthless precision that no living creature could equal.
Standing behind the Tactical Action Officer’s chair in the air-conditioned semi-darkness of Combat Information Center, Captain Bowie watched the chase rushing toward its conclusion on the giant Aegis display screens. The fingers of his left hand gripped a steel crossbeam in the overhead, steadying his body against the motion of the ship. His right hand rested casually on the back of the TAO’s chair. His posture was carefully-relaxed, and he concentrated on keeping the tension out of his facial expression.
He knew without looking that the men and women of his CIC team were watching him out of the corners of their eyes. They were measuring his reactions, drawing confidence and hope from the calm assurance of his demeanor.
His crew needed hope right now. They were scared, and they had every reason to be. They were exhausted, and their bodies were bruised and bloodied. More than a few of their shipmates were already dead. Their ship was grievously damaged, and the fight was not over yet.
Bowie ran a hand through his short black hair, and relaxed the set of his shoulders. He looked more like an accountant than a naval officer, and he knew it. His long face and narrow cheekbones gave him an air of clean efficiency, and the slight downturn of his mouth tended to make him look pensive, even in the most relaxed of circumstances. The effect was usually offset by his quick brown eyes and his easy laugh, but there was nothing to laugh about tonight. Nothing at all.
This was the craziest tactical situation Bowie had ever heard of. Even the worst-case everybody-dies training scenarios weren’t this bad. His plan for dealing with the situation was even crazier, if such a thing was possible.
It was not a good plan; Bowie knew that. Maybe it wasn’t even an entirely sane plan, but what the hell else could he do? If there were other options, he hadn’t been able to think of them.