Chapter 14 - Mayday
Boudreaux hit the cold rushing water feet first. The river was swollen by melting snow packs on the rugged mountains. Even through the insulated suit the shock of the cold water seemed to make his heart skip a beat.
He didn’t know whether it was because the river was too deep or the current was so strong but he did not hit bottom. There was no swimming in this river. There was merely surviving the relentless current. He tried to go feet-first as the current pushed him downstream but in the dark roiling water, it was hard to tell which way was up. It was a good thing that he had a mask and air. No one could have survived the raging river without it. At the pace that the rushing waters were carrying him, it would take less than an hour to reach the coast and swim out to sea.
As he bobbed along the raging river, Boudreaux’s special delivery was also on its way. The train entered the underground complex known to the Americans as the Citadel and came to a stop in a long cavern that had been set up to serve as a loading dock.
As soon as the train stopped, crews jumped aboard the flat cars and began removing the tarps that covered the pallets and cutting the ropes that secured them to the flat cars. Ammunition for the Citadel’s numerous artillery pieces had already been dispersed so the new ordnance was being used to replenish the complexes depleted magazines. A forklift picked up the pallet of 150 millimeter shells and drove them to the appropriate storage area and returned to disperse more cargo.
Tom woke up with a start aching from sleeping in an awkward position sitting beside his brother’s bed. Jimmy and Brian were still asleep so he got up quietly and slipped out of the room.
He was shocked to find that it was late in the afternoon. He went downstairs and found Bobby watching TV and Ronny dozing on the sofa. Bobby looked up cheerfully and pointed to the kitchen.
Tom said, “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to talk to you earlier but I was really out of it.”
Bobby said, “Yeah, well staying up all night fighting a battle really takes it out of you.”
“No joke”, Tom said while rummaging through the kitchen. “How are you and Ronny holding up?”
“Ronny took it pretty hard”, Bobby said as he opened the refrigerator and pulled out a plate of chicken enchiladas and stuck them in the microwave. “I wasn’t thrilled about shooting people either but the Sergeant that they left up here talked to us. He was great. It really helped to see Dad.”
Tom cocked his head and said, “Do you hear that?”
There was an odd buzzing sound coming from the living room.
Bobby looked around. “Yeah, what is it?”
Tom said, “I think it’s coming from the TV.”
There was a loud knock on the kitchen door. Bobby opened the door and it was Sergeant Barlow. Pale and winded he said, “I’ve got to look at your television.”
Tom said, “Come on in.”
Barlow sprinted past them and stopped in horror in front of the television. Bobby picked up the remote and turned up the volume. Across the bottom of the screen was a message stating that the broadcast may be interrupted by the Emergency Broadcast System.
The scene on television showed the ocean with a huge mushroom shaped cloud rising high on the horizon with a large bank of angry mist at its foot. In the distance a large hazy ship was burning from stem to stern. Live from Houston was displayed in bright red letters on the bottom left of the screen.
This is KTRX news in Houston. The Coast Guard has confirmed that there was a nuclear detonation several miles out to sea. I just spoke to the harbormaster and he said that a ship was approaching the port of Houston. The Coast Guard sent out a cutter to enforce the quarantine. There was a short firefight with small arms and the ship detonated a nuclear weapon.
Apparently the cutter was destroyed and the Houston’s deep water oil terminal has been damaged. As you can see from our live picture a tanker is on fire out in the Gulf. There is serious damage to Corpus Christi, glass is blown out of eastern facing of Houston’s skyscrapers and the blast apparently touched off a refinery fire near Baytown.
FEMA is advising all residents to stay indoors…
This just in the Navy has destroyed a second ship, this one apparently approaching New Orleans. Navy jets were scrambled out of the Pensacola Naval Air Station and sank the ship with harpoon missiles…
Ronny sat up, watched and slumped back into the sofa.
Barlow said, “We just got a radio message. The National Command Authority just put us on full nuclear alert.”
Tom asked, “What does that mean to us?”
Ronny said, “It means that I hope there is some liquor in the house.”
Near Earth Orbit
Western Pacific Basin
It started in space.
Six Chinese killer satellites, poetically named Celestial Dragons, adjusted their orbital heading and began smashing into America’s constellation of satellites over the Pacific. Within a matter of minutes a pair of KH-14 spy satellites, a pair of Naval Ocean Surveillance Satellites (NOSS) and one of the Air Forces LACROSS satellites were destroyed.
This by no means blinded the United States in the Pacific basin but its reconnaissance capacity was significantly degraded. It forced STRATCOM to adjust the orbits of a dozen other satellites to take up the slack.
Worst still, it forced STRATCOM to use their MISTY series stealth reconnaissance satellites, something that General Peterson did not want to do. The additional telemetry traffic off the MISTY satellites when they were active was the only thing that might give away their position. With the Pacific Keyholes and the NOSS birds down, the MISTYs were absolutely crucial.
Round two came when the STARSHIP flight of F-15e out of Edwards Air Force base delivered a volley of ASAT (Anti-Satellite) missiles that wiped out the remaining Dragons and their kin over North America and the Pacific.
It was over in about twenty-five minutes, cost thirty billion dollars and left USSTRATCOM in command of the high frontier.
Somewhere over the Mid-West
President McMahan and his staff huddled together around a table in the executive office aboard the E-4.
McMahan said, “OK we’ve got
to get this right the first time. According to the War Powers Act we need a
joint resolution from Congress in the absence of a hostile act. I would say that
the destruction of 30 something billion dollars worth of satellites constitutes
a hostile act.”
Secretary of State Roger Miller said, “We have all of the bases covered sir. We brought in the Committees on Defense and Intelligence from the start and both Houses are being brought up to speed as soon as they arrive at Mount Weather. The attacks on our satellites only strengthen our case.”
McMahan nodded solemnly. “That’s it then. Give the order to all commands: Hostilities have commenced. Area commanders are clear to proceed with all necessary operations.”
John C. Stennis Battle Group
Passing the La Perouse Strait
Admiral Jamison and his staff carefully watched the progress of his ships as they completed the transit of the straits from the Combat Information Center of the big carrier. Everything about it made his stomach churn. His ships were in a tight group to make the transit, not spread out as they should be.
A Russian Mainstay Airborne Early Warning Aircraft was orbiting their base at Vladivostok and another was flying much further north near the Kamchatka Peninsula out of Petropavlovsk. Even with the battle groups radars off, patrol flights of Russian MIG 29 and SU-30 fighters were easily detectable by their radar emissions.
To the south there were the friendly units of the Japanese Self Defense Forces. The battle group was taking a radar data feed from a Japanese E-3 Sentry aircraft. The Japanese navy was deployed along their west coast. They too were operating with their radars off and taking their feed from the E-3.
Close in to Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido were the Shimakaze and the AEGIS equipped Chokai. Chokai was operating her Spy-1d radar intermittently.
An Ensign approached Admiral Jamison and handed him a slip of paper.
He read the message from the National Command Authority and said, “Well, that’s it gentlemen. Hostilities have commenced. Signal the fleet to come to flank speed and stand by to receive target packages for their Tomahawks. As soon as we clear Rebun Island, let’s get spread out. Launch our ready Hawkeye. Load out strike fighter squadrons 2 and 34 for air to air and get a Combat Air Patrol up. Get the anti-submarine choppers up. We don’t need any surprises.”
Airborne Command Post WIZZARD
Things were so busy aboard WIZZARD that it was almost anti-climatic when the air control boss announced that there were multiple incoming airstrikes. The big board in the war room clearly showed eight big strike packages crossing the straits of Taiwan.
Admiral Simpson asked, “Can we tell where they are heading?”
Colonel Callahan, the designated Air Boss replied, “There’s no telling at this point but these two are heading toward Taipei, this one is on a vector for the Taiwanese fleet anchorage. There appears to be forty planes in each group.”
“We’ve got two other groups flying very low, heading toward Guam and Okinawa. We think they are Xian H-6 bombers with cruise missiles trying to catch us napping. They are on a heading taking them directly toward where our F-15s are waiting.”
Taiwanese General Bin Shu, the senior ROC liaison watched the situation developing on the board. Finally he said, “Admiral Simpson, let them come. Their targets are predictable and since we have had warning, they will be hitting electronic decoys and empty buildings. All of our mobile equipment is in new positions and they do not expect the additional Patriot missiles or the I-HAWK SAMs that we have deployed in the last few hours.”
Simpson said, “Those strikes can still do a lot of damage.”
Shu replied, “Yes but it serves our purpose. They expose their best pilots and crews for no results. We will mass our Mirage and F-16 fighters on these two groups. They are isolated and can’t support each other. It looks like we will both hit the enemy hard at just about the same time.”
As they watched, battle was joined over Taipei and Tainan as the ROC Air Force jumped the incoming flights. Further north and well out to sea as American F-15s attacked the two low flying bombers approaching Okinawa and Guam.
Camp Castle 2nd Infantry Division HQ- Dongducheon, South Korea
Martha Ingram and her team had been relocated to a bunker deep in the granite hearts of one of South Koreas forbidding hills. Even now they were tracking the comings and goings in and around the Citadel.
The North Korean artillery arrived on schedule in the form of a rolling barrage meant to clear the DMZ of mines. From Sky Drakes vantage point BMP scouts and T-72 tanks began pulling out of concrete revetments and forming up to move toward the border.
USS Seadragon, Philippine Sea
“Conn, Sonar: targets using active sonar. I hear hull popping noises, targets are going shallow.”
“What is the time to target on our torpedoes?” Summers asked as he moved to the Sonar Station and looked over Lt. Hayes shoulder.
Dawson looked at his stopwatch. “Time to target Goblin-331 is 2:45. Time to target Goblin-332 is 2:10.”
Summers asked, “What’s the status of the other boats?”
Hayes answered, “Both of the Akulas have gained speed and are headed towards us.”
“Any chance they’ve detected
Hayes said, “Not at this range. Right now they are just reacting to… Torpedoes in the water! Goblin-331 and Goblin-332 have fired torpedoes down the bearings of the incoming torpedoes. Targets have released countermeasures.”
Dawson said, “Too early.”
Summers said, “Much too early. Our fish are still under wire control. What are they up to?”
Hayes shouted, “Captain, the boats are in hover mode and are opening their missile tube doors.”
“Mr. Dawson, how soon before they can launch?”
Dawson answered, “That depends on their state of readiness. If they’ve got their target packages loaded they could fire immediately. Time on target Goblin-331 is 2:00. Time to target Goblin-332 is 1:35.”
Hayes said, “Goblin-332 just launched a missile sir! So has Goblin-331! ”
Dawson said, “They were ready to launch. There’s no way they could have uploaded the targeting packages and readied their missiles that fast.”
Hayes said, “A sonabouy just dropped in the water. It’s off to our south, maybe 3 miles.”
Summers ordered, “Chief of the Boat, make your depth 1200 feet, speed 20 knots and steer course 110 degrees.”
The Chief of the boat acknowledged, “Diving to 1200 feet, speed 20 knots, steering course 110 degrees, Aye sir.”
Hayes said, “Goblin-332 and 331 have both launched again.”
Summers asked, “What’s the status of our torpedoes?”
Dawson said, “Time to target Goblin-332 is 50 seconds. Goblin-331 is 1:25.”
Summers ordered, “Weapons, activate torpedoes 3 and 4 and cut the wires.”
The Weapons Officer acknowledged the order, “Torpedoes 3 and 4 are in acquisition mode, control wires are cut.”
Summers said, “Let’s see if they want to volley their missiles or live.”
Hayes said, “Our torpedoes are pinging. Damn! Goblin-332 just launched again. Another sonabouy just landed in the water to our south east.”
Conducting missile operations did nothing to hide Goblin-332. The sonar in the Mark 46 ADCAP torpedoes latched onto the machine noises. Torpedo 3 slammed into the engine room and torpedo 4 struck the missile room just as the fourth missile was being launched. Goblin-332 rolled onto her side and began to plunge fifteen thousand feet to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.
Hayes announced, “Goblin-332 is down! Torpedoes 1 and 2 are on final acquisition on target Goblin-331!”
Torpedo 1 struck Goblin-331 directly in the reactor room snapping her keel and breaking her back. Torpedo 2 struck the conning tower. There was a secondary explosion and Goblin-331 snapped in half and began breaking up on her way down to join her sister.
Hayes said, “Goblin-331 is down.”
Summers said, “Chief of the boat change course to zero-four-five. We’re going to sit right on top of the wrecks and use their breaking up noises to hide.”
United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM)
The Duty Officer announced, “Vampire, Vampire, Vampire! Multiple missile launches detected from the Philippine Sea. Possible Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles: launch profile suggests Chinese JL-2 missiles.”
General Peterson said, “Alert all SM-3 equipped ships in the Pacific to slave their systems to us. How many inbounds do we see?”
The Duty Officer said, “Four so far but they appear to be in the process of launching. There are going to be more.”
Abraham Lincoln Battle Group
USS Mobile Bay
13˚ 23’ N 140˚ 22’ W
The Duty Officer in the Combat Information Center of the AEGIS cruiser saw the alert come in.
He shouted, “Get the Captain to the bridge. General Quarters, missile launch! Weapons, I need your key!”
The Weapons officer produced his key from a chain around his neck.
The Duty Officer said, “Turn your key on three. One, two, three, Enable.”
The Weapons Officer took his console and said, “I am setting the system to autonomous operations.”
The Duty Officer said, “Sensors on in three, two, one.”
The powerful AN/SPY-1B(V) phased array radar system put out three million watts of radar energy on a search bearing between 270 to 300 degrees and an altitude of 100,000 feet. Immediately the enemy missiles were painted and there was a return on the ships radar screens.
The Radar Intercept Officer reported, “I have four, no make that six SLBMs in boost phase ascending.”
The Duty Officer said, “We are firing SM-3 missiles now.”
In intervals of 10 seconds four SM-3 missiles woke up the entire Battle Group by popping out of their vertical launch tubes and raced toward their targets.
The Radar Intercept Officer said, “Sir! Another Vampire just showed up on radar for a total of seven inbound SLBMS!”
“System is reset, ready to launch second volley.”
Captain Scott arrived on the bridge as the second volley of four SM-3 missiles left their launch cells. Noting the alert condition, he said, “Mr. Wilson, what are you shooting at?”
United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM)
General Peterson watched the situation develop on the big monitor in the war room.
Mobile Bay was the closest AEGIS ship to the launch area. If they were lucky, she could knock down at least half of them.
Peterson asked, “What ships do we have in position to intercept those missiles?”
Commander Rahn, STRATCOM’s Naval Liaison officer said, “The ships in position to intercept the missiles are the San Jacinto and Paul Hamilton near Pearl Harbor and John Paul Jones off the Coast of Southern California.”
Peterson said, “Get them warmed up. This is going to be close.”
USS Mobile Bay
The Weapons Officer said, “Captain Scott, the missiles have passed out of our engagement envelope.”
Captain Scott asked, “How are we doing?”
The Weapons Officer answered, “Our first four missiles will intercept the targets… about right now.”
Watching his display, he said, “Hard kill, hard kill- the other two targets have boosted away. Stand by.”
Everyone in the CIC held their breath. SLBM launched against the United States took things to an entirely different level. This was no longer a regional conflict. The nuclear war that had caused two generations nightmares had arrived unless their missiles could find their mark.
The Weapons Officer finally said, “Our second salvo got one more but four are still on the way.”
USS San Jacinto and Paul Hamilton
21˚05’ N 158˚ 7’ W
The AEGIS cruiser and Arleigh Burke class destroyer fired a total of fourteen SM-3 missiles at the inbound JL-2 missiles. Catching the missiles at apogee, the highest point in their path, the SM-3 missiles slammed into three of them.
USS John Paul Jones
34˚23’ N 123˚ 5’ W
The Weapons Officer of the John Paul Jones watched as the last incoming missile approached. The attack computer took over and launched four SM-3 missiles from the destroyers mark 41 vertical launch cells.
As he watched the progress but before the missiles could find their mark, the target broke up into four small blips each with its own trajectory.
He said, “Oh my God.”
The Captain said, “What’s wrong?”
The Weapons Officer said, “The target MIRVed sir: Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles and each one has a warhead. We’ve lost our window sir. We’ve lost it.”
United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM)
General Peterson and his staff watched in horror as the JL-2 missile split into four warheads. Suddenly the exercise became very real and it was as if everyone was frozen by the sheer horror of it.
General Peterson said, “Recalculate solutions for LONG BOW- now Dammit now!”
His staff, shaken out of their shock, went back to work feeding targeting data to the LONG BOW F-16s but everyone knew the two blips on the most southerly trajectories were out of reach.
The staff of STRATCOM watched the board as the LONG BOW F-16s went to afterburners to get into position to take their shots. Four ships of the LONG BOW flight fired their missiles took out the warheads approaching Denver and Los Angeles and immediately had to bail out because their fighters were out of fuel.
Peterson watched in horror as the warheads approached San Diego, California and Phoenix, Arizona. It was a simple matter of geometry and angles but the solution took more time and fuel than they had. The inbound warheads were out of reach.
At 8,000 feet above the two targets the 250 kilo-ton warheads exploded.
General Peterson stared at the board for a moment. He opened his mouth like he was going to say something but stopped. Finally he said, “Colonel Jacobs, take over.”
He went into his office, closed the door and shot himself in the head.