Chapter Twenty Nine-Pause and Take Aim
The truck moved slowly towards the main road; trailing furnace black diesel smoke out of its twin exhausts. Following the lumbering big rig, a cloud of swirling dust rose and then settled on the sides of the drive, as the truck rounded a slight curve and was gone from sight.
The men stood with mixed emotions as they watched the red, white and blue hog carrier disappear. The quiet of the moment was interrupted by the buzzing of flies, and the distant honk of the big rigs air horn in a good-bye gesture. Gary turned to Rob who was standing next to him. “Let’s see what’s happening with your ride.” Gary took his cell phone from his belt and speed dialed Captain Warner’s number.
On the open sea, he answered in his usual manner on the second ring. “Warner”
“Captain, this is Gary Martin. What do you have for me?”
“Martin, the discs are finished, and we have the pilots ready to take your men to San Francisco…can you get everyone to Jacksonville?” Jacksonville was short for the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, or simply ‘NAS JAX’.
Gary held his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and turned to NASCAR Larry “How long to get to Jacksonville?”
“Less than an hour, depending on traffic.”
Turning back to the conversation with the Reagan’s Captain. “How long will it take for your pilots to arrive?”
“If we take our time, we can be there in a couple of hours…” Captain Warner paused “…JAX is a pretty large base…on the south side of the field is the transient aircraft area. Find building 20-7, it’s situated next to a large hangar. That’s where the VC-20 will be and where we’ll meet you with the discs. When you arrive, ask for Lt. Commander Steve Walsh…he’s a friend of mine and will be expecting you.”
Gary jotted the building number and their contacts name on a slip of paper. “How are you doing on your end?”
“We should be ready within a couple of hours…is Captain Miller there?”
Gary handed the phone to Jack “Miller”
“Captain, what time is the Nebraska scheduled to cast off?”
“We were scheduled for 10:00. I’ve accelerated the schedule so we can get underway at 0900…” he added “…you know as well as I do Captain, making the scheduled cast off time is tough.” US Navy ship commanders play a mental game in that, if you are one minute late on cast off then you might as well be one hour late.
“When you come out from the Cumberland Sound, can you head south towards Jacksonville before exiting out to the Shelf?”
“I can…but, why?”
“We’ve got a little surprise in store for those Kilo’s that’ll be waiting for you…”pausing for a moment “…and make a little noise while you’re at it, we want them to follow you.”
Jack smiled “No problem…thanks Bull, and be careful around those Kilo’s.” Jack handed the phone back to Gary and smiled at the trap that was being set.
“Captain, thank you for all of your help. We’re almost ready to split up on this end…I’ll call you again when we’re set. Captain…take care.” Martin severed the connection and turned to the gathered group. “Ok, Popeye…you and Larry head to Jacksonville for those discs. Just how long do you think it will take to test those torpedoes?”
Popeye scratched his stubby gray haired head. “Well, let’s see….” Popeye talked his schedule out loud, like a school child reading a story “…we need to get the discs, return from JAX, find a hauler, load an ADCAP and take it to a off-site location…oh hell, I don’t know…” scratching his head again “… Maybe six hours? I’m just trying to think where we could take the ADCAP to test it.”
JR Stevens spoke up “Just how big a place do you need?”
Popeye looked at the farmer “This ain’t no Chinese firecracker here…we’ve got 3,700 pounds of torpedo and 650 pounds of high explosives. Hauling this bitch unnoticed won’t be the easiest thing, and then if she blows…it’ll make a hell of a bang.”
“I’ve got 2 other farms that might be some help to ya’ll.” JR took a map offered from Jefferson and pointed south of Kings Bay “This right heah is about 10 miles from us. I have 500 acres of beans heah….I also have 700 acres of corn over there.” JR pointed to another location about 12 miles north of Kings Bay.
“What about people? Are there houses nearby?” Popeye asked
“They is housing developments near both.” JR replied
Gary looked over JR’s shoulder and then at Jefferson “We could probably use those corn fields for our part.”
Jefferson nodded agreement
“Then I’ll use the bean fields.” Popeye answered
“Good, so as to not to attract too much attention…if you could your tests run by the time the Nebraska casts off; then you can call Captain Miller directly with the results.” Gary said to Popeye.
Popeye nodded and turned to NASCAR Larry “Well, let’s not stand around with our fingers up our butts stock car boy…we’ve got to get to the Sonar Testing Facility, and then to JAX….let’s see how well you drive.”
Gary chuckled at the cantankerous Popeye. Turning to Rob “You know what need’s to be done on your end Rob…” Gary really liked the SEAL Commander and the bond they developed “…I hope that those Ambassadors understand what’s happening here…” Gary paused as Jack now sidled up to the SEAL’s “…I need to tell you what will happen if we don’t find those Global Hawk controllers…” Gary explained the second part pf the plan of which the Nebraska was to play.
Commander Rob Toland looked at Captain Jack Miller, who nodded affirmatively. All of the SEAL’s and the gathered group exhaled audibly at the plan.
“I kind figgered dat dis might be an option…” Jefferson said “…so be it.”
“Rob…” Gary extended his hand “…you take care. Now look, this isn’t a one way mission…this is only the beginning, so keep that in mind, alright?”
Rob and Gary shook hands as did the four SEAL’s and their driver Jimmy that would be teamed together. Jack also shook everyone’s hands and it was an emotional parting. Jack spoke to Gary “Martin…if I don’t make it back…”
Gary knew what he wanted to say. “I’ll make sure that Lauren and the twins are taken care of…” Gary reached over and gave Jack a hug “…don’t worry brother, they’ll be taken care of, you have my word on it. Will you do the same for me?”
Jack nodded yes then took a deep breath and changed the subject as he was reassured that Gary was good for his word. “I’m going back to the Nebraska…we’ll start making bubbles around 0300, by 0500 we will be 100%...and 0900 we’re out of here.”
“Making bubbles?” Gary asked
“Firing the nuke up.” Jack explained the term
Gary nodded as the SEAL’s exchanged their parting goodbyes which consisted of punches to the shoulder, smacks upside each others heads and the prerequisite giving each other the finger. Rob, Gary and Jack just smiled at the camaraderie of their band of warriors. As they were talking, Larry and Popeye drove off towards Kings Bay and the Sonar Testing Facility.
The airfield was illuminated with a golden yellow light from the sodium gassed bulbs. Activity was at a fevered pitch as final preparations were made for the long trans-continental flights. An olive drab gasoline powered tractor slowly tugged its attached load from the hangar opening towards the taxiway. The start up procedure would be handled remotely as would the take off and flight. One stop would be made for fuel as the re-routing of the Global Hawks flight would add approximately 3,000 miles to its pre-programmed flight path. Three other Global Hawks sat on the tarmac and were also being prepared for their flights.
The tractor stopped at the edge of the taxi-way and the driver dismounted and unhooked the gray white aircraft. Speaking into a hand held walkie-talkie, Sgt Ali gave confirmation to his commanding officer that all was ok for the pre-flight to begin.
Captain Maqqi typed a message to the Control Center almost 7,200 miles to the west.
Sitting behind a computer console in Maryland, the Pakistani Air Force pilot started his check list. Main Power on, brakes set, electronics on and verified, engine start up…
Sgt Ali saw the wing tip lights start to blink on the Hawk as the main power suddenly came on, and then heard the top mounted engine start its long whine to power up…
Control surfaces check, engine systems check, compass check, GPS check, altimeter check, radar altimeter check, FLIR system check, optical and laser targeting systems check, weapons systems check…
The Sgt saw the wing control surfaces, the ailerons and flaps move up and down and the V-tailed rudder/elevator move back and forth. The Global Hawk sat there as the internal electronics were checked and verified. Sgt Ali heard the engine throttle up and then back down as the Hawk slowly moved towards the runway, steering a perfect line and stopping directly on the numbers of the large main runway. As the Global Hawk sat and its pre-flight checks completed, the Sgt heard the engine power up and saw the nose of the ungainly plane dip slightly as the powerful engine forced the landing gear down slightly. The brakes were then released and the Hawk’s nose sprang up as the hydraulic fluid in the steering gear equalized…the aircraft slowly started to move down the centerline of the wide runway, gaining noise and speed until the nose wheel lifted off followed by the rest of the UAV. Once airborne the Global Hawk gained altitude quickly, retracting its landing gear and began its pre-programmed flight southwest towards Nigeria and away from any possible confrontation with an opposing fighter aircraft.
Behind the control console, the Air Force Pilot was pleased with the efficiency and success of the departure; however he was displeased with the time of the take off. Standing behind him was his commanding officer “Lieutenant, we are running late…will we make it in time?”
“Sir, the weather says that we should find favorable winds at the 45,000 foot level. If Allah is with us, then we will make it. Here in this country the weather reports indicate that we can expect a strong front coming up from the southwest, with very strong winds…”the pilot turned and looked at his officer “… Now that we have to fly an extra 3,000 miles to avoid the Atlantic crossing…I would say sir that we could very well be a little late.” The pilot understated the delay by a couple of hours.
“Monitor this situation carefully…if the ground speed doesn’t add up to our 0900 hr “appointment” with those Special Forces, then cut corners and to save as much time as you can.”
“Sir, we don’t have to fly all the way to Nigeria. We won’t need to refuel until we land at Caracas Venezuela…I can cut almost 2 hours flight time by flying over Algeria and then cross at the western Sahara. We will still be out of the reach of any aircraft carrier.”
“Will this shortcut put us over the target on time?” the Commander asked
“Yes sir it will.”
“Let’s do it. I’ll call General Santana and explain the situation...” the Colonel paused momentarily to decide how to present this situation “…however, before I call the General, what is the status of the other three Global Hawks?”
“I don’t know that sir.”
Three other Air Force pilots sat behind similar computer consoles and looked at the Colonel with questioning looks. “We are all behind schedule sir; none of us have started our pre-flight checks yet.” One of the flight officers stated.
Colonel Farzhi picked up the phone on a neighboring desk and dialed Captain Maqqi at Sargodha Air Base. “Captain, this is Colonel Farzhi at the Control Center. What is the delay with the other Global Hawks?”
“Colonel, the other three have had problems with some of the electronic sensors. It seems that the radar altimeter sensors were defective which gave false readings. We have replaced them and are now preparing them for their flights.”
“The Global Hawk that is now in the air…has its sensor also been replaced?”
The voice through the phone sounded distant “Yes, sir…that was the first one we fixed.”
The Colonel felt at ease with the explanation, although the General might not. “Is there anything else?”
The voice on the other end quietly spoke “Yes sir…it seems that the ‘Enhanced Weapons’ are all inoperable.”
“Colonel, there is something wrong with those weapons that would make the triggering mechanism fire out of sync, sir…” Captain Maqqi paused and then continued “…we replaced those weapons with the ‘standard’ 150 kiloton weapons sir.” Triggering mechanisms on nuclear weapons create firing sequences and times measured in nanoseconds, a defective mechanism would not allow the firing sequence to be completed as designed thereby rendering the weapons ineffective.
Colonel Farzhi nodded reluctant agreement, after all; this is war and in war things don’t always go as planned especially with complex weapons systems such as Global Hawks or nuclear weapons. “Thank you Captain…how long before the others are airborne?”
“Two hours at the most sir.” Captain Maqqi was never so glad to have a conversation end.
Colonel Farzhi dialed General Santana’s number from memory. The UN Secretary General sat behind a large walnut desk in the White House as his assistant handed him the phone.
“General, this is Col Farzhi at Ft Ritchie. I have just spoken to Captain Maqqi who is the Operational Commander of the Global Hawks at Sargodha Air Base. A Global Hawk, designated ‘Blackfoot One’ is now airborne General.”
“‘A’ Global Hawk? What about the others Colonel?” General Santana could be explosive in his dealings with underlings.
“The others have just completed a refit of some defective electronics and will be airborne in two hours General.” Colonel had beads of sweat starting on his forehead as he nervously waited for the General’s reply.
“Colonel…will Blackfoot One, arrive on schedule and complete the mission?”
“Yes sir it will.”
“Good…I cannot emphasize enough, how important this mission is….” General Santana paused “…is the ‘test’ weapon ready?”
“Yes sir…” Colonel Farzhi stood with his eyes closed and spoke “…this Hawks weapons compliment is exactly as planned General.”
The pause and phrasing from the Colonel told General Santana that all was not as ordered. “So, Colonel…what is not exactly as planned?”
“The enhanced weapons sir…the firing mechanism are defective, and have been replaced with the standard 150 kiloton weapons.”
“I see…well I guess that this is what the Americans call Murphy’s Law, right? In that anything can and will go wrong at the least opportune time…” The General didn’t explode at the news, uncharacteristically so. “…Exactly what weapons do we have Colonel?”
“Including the flight that is inbound, we have eleven 150 kiloton nuclear cruise missiles and one 5 kiloton tactical nuclear cruise missile…plus the air to air missiles, sir.”
The General nodded in acceptance “So, I have your word that the Special Forces mission and the Test will go as planned.”
“You have my word sir.”
“Excellent…Colonel I will need men that I can rely on for this final phase. I need strong leaders, such as you. Call me when Blackfoot One is over US territory.”
Colonel Farzhi felt excited and alive that the General spoke to him this way. “Thank you, sir.”
The General handed the phone back to his assistant, Kendai Obama. “The Colonel and everyone at Sargodha had better hope this mission goes off as planned.” General Santana’s Spanish skin tone reddened at his building anger, and the underlying threat.
Obama spoke, which had a calming effect on the General. “General…this mission has taken many years of preparation and planning, and we have done very well sir…” The Nigerians brilliant white smile showed “…momentum and victory are on our side.”
The General sat down at the desk of past American Presidents and put his feet on the desktop, as he instantly calmed down and smiled back at his assistant. “You are right Obama…it is too late for the Americans to stop this now….” pausing “…tomorrow the last of the Special Forces here in this country will be dealt with, and then America will get a taste of what a nuclear weapon can do to their home soil….” Pausing again “…and as always, we will be the hero’s to save them from their…” smiling “…enemies.” Obama knew that he would be scheduling and delivering the news to the media about the ‘rogue American terrorist nuclear weapon’
Obama and the General laughed at the Generals last comment. The General, now in a jovial mood asked “So Obama…have you though about what area of this country you would like to have and to rule?”
Kendai Obama nodded at his General “Yes General I have, I would like Florida.”
“Florida? Interesting…tell me why.”
Obama paused and smiled “I like climate. I also like Disney World and will make my headquarters there…in Mickey Mouse’s Castle.”
The General laughed at Obama’s choice. “Mickey Mouse…” Santana chuckled “…and what would you do with this Mickey Mouse?”
Obama laughed “Mickey Mouse is a rat…I have no interest in him, however…” pausing and smiling lustfully “…I do have an interest in Cinderella.”
Santana lustfully smiled with Obama “Yes…she will make a fine start for your harem. Florida is yours Obama.”
The General’s assistant then asked “And you sir…what will you have?”
“New York…I prefer the City life.”
Hovering over the surfaced Los Angeles Class submarine, the gray Seahawk helicopter lowered the Jacksonville’s Commander, Chris O’Neill down to the aft deck and the waiting blue suited sailors with their orange life preservers. The Commander was gently set down, the sling unbuckled and the Seahawk lifted quickly and returned back to the Ronald Reagan. The sailors and their Commander quickly entered the submarine and made their way to the Control Room. The Los Angeles class submarines or 688 class, are smaller and more confined than their larger sister ships; the Ohio class submarines.
The ‘wardroom’ waited for Commander O’Neill to brief them on just “why” the need to leave the sub for a meeting on the Reagan. Rumors swirled about the meeting, but then rumors always seemed to make their way through every Navy ship. Commander O’Neill looked at his officers, the ‘wardroom’ and began “Where are our ‘Guests?’”
The XO for the Jacksonville, Lt Cmdr. Chuck Belanger spoke “They are in the Torpedo Room.”
Commander O’Neill looked at each man “It seems that our ‘Guests’ have a chip imbedded in them that can give away our position.”
The officers seemed quietly and angrily startled at this news, they nodded without a word.
Commander O’Neill continued “There’s more…our ADCAP’s have been sabotaged. The subs that have been sunk were hit with a sonar ping that has an imbedded signal which causes them to arm and explode inside the ship. This is how the West Virginia was sunk…we now have proof.”
The officers now started to talk, all at once and their anger started to spill out.
Commander O’Neill again continued “They are trying to sink the Nebraska and then they will come for the Reagan…and us...” pausing “…they also have nuclear weapons and are planning to use them on the mainland…our mainland.”
Chief of the Boat Jim Brit, who although was an enlisted man, joined the ‘wardroom’ and spoke “Ok, skipper…what do we need to do?”
“First of all, our ‘Guests” need to leave the boat, immediately and second…we have to dump our ADCAP’s.”
“All of them?!” XO Belanger questioned
“Not all of them, we’ll keep one…” Chris turned to his crew “…I know that we can get one shot off.”
COB Brit went out of the Control Room and unlocking the weapons locker withdrew a Beretta handgun and returned. Speaking to the Commander “Sir, I’ll take care of the ‘Guests.’”
Commander O’Neill looked at the Beretta and said “Not in the Torpedo Room.”
COB Brit had an idea and said “Ok, sir…meet me top side.” The COB hid the pistol in his blue coveralls then went forward and slid down the two flights of stairs using his hands on the side rails to steady him. Ducking through the open hatches he entered the Torpedo Room where the ‘Guests’ were hot bunking. In a Fast Attack Submarine, there aren’t enough bunks for everyone so the men share, which means the bunks are usually warm from the previous sailor, hence the term hot bunking. Finding the two ‘Guests’ COB roused them out of their reading and snoozing “The Skipper needs to see you two, immediately. He’s topside on the sail.”
The two diminutive ‘Guests’ rolled out of their bunks and went straight away to the Control Room and then up the steps through both air locks to the look out positions on top of the sail. COB followed them up. The look out area on the sail has room on for four men to stand exposed from the chest up, which makes an impressive view when the 688 boats are cruising at speed on the surface. The ‘Guests’ who thought they were being privileged with this impressive view, stood behind the forward facing Commander and COB Brit who followed them up. Cmdr O’Neill turned to face them. “Get off my boat.” The Commander was succinct in his approach.
The ‘Guests were understandably startled “Why Commander...what did we do?” One of the ‘Guests’ asked in a fearful tone.
“Your entire mission with this World Navy Force is deceptive. Your plan for a take over and destruction of my country is abominable and is a declaration of war. To top it all off, you are giving away our position. …now get off my boat.”
COB Brit pulled his weapon out of his rear pocket, flipped the safety off and pulled back the hammer. “You can either jump off or I can shoot you and we’ll throw you off, either way…you’re off the boat.”
The two men decided to risk jumping, however the top of the sail is about 30 feet above the waterline, making that decision decidedly difficult. The Jacksonville had two of it’s large gray and black mottled mast antennas extended giving the ‘Guests’ a handhold as they climbed out of the lookout station. Once they were standing on the sails top surface, Commander O’Neill called down into the Control Room “Lower the Antennae’s.” He then tapped COB on the shoulder and said “Let’s rig for dive.”
COB Brit wanted to shoot the ‘Guests’, however, he followed orders and went below. Commander O’Neill followed COB and closed both sets of hatches on the look out station and then the inner hatch, giving the ‘Guests’ no hand hold.
The two ‘Guests’ were alone on top of the Jacksonville.
In the Control Room, COB asked Cmdr O’Neill “Why didn’t you let me shoot them sir?”
“Where are they going to go? The longer they thrash about on the surface will give Norfolk, I mean The World Naval Forces a signal of where ‘they’ are…not where ‘we’ are. These two will drown in less than an hour…nice and slow, just as they deserve.” Chris looked at his COB “Now, let’s rig for combat.”
Commander O’Neill ordered a dive to 200 feet, a heading change to 090° and the disposal of the ADCAP’s “I want one ADCAP left…make sure this fish checks out before we shoot all of the others off. Send the others out on the wire to maximum range then turn the fish down towards the bottom before cutting the wires. It seems that bad torpedoes run in my family, and I don’t want any fish turning back on us.”
“How’s that sir?” A young wide-eyed Planesman asked.
Commander O’Neill thought about his past and while the Jacksonville was transitioning to 200 feet told his story. “My Grandfather was a submariner aboard the USS Perch in World War Two. At the beginning of the war almost the entire load of torpedoes the Navy had on hand were defective, due to faulty detonators. To make matters worse, the running depths were set too deep, making the fish pass under the ships harmlessly. Well Granddad’s boat was making a surface attack on a Jap freighter with torpedoes…and one of those torpedoes turned around and struck the Perch, sinking her. My Granddad spent the entire war in a Jap POW camp…” Chris paused for a moment and gave the command to start firing the ADCAP’s
“Fire one…fire two…fire three…fire four…” The commands were repeated and passed down to the Torpedo Room. The Jacksonville shuddered as the ADCAP’s were launched from their tubes.
Chris continued “…Grandpa never did talk much about World War Two with any of us. So, right before I shipped off to the Naval Academy, my Granddad and I go to Tombstone Arizona for the day. Granddad always did like the Wild West stories, and they had these re-enactments of the Gunfight at The OK Corral…”Chris had a faraway look as he remembered his last time with his Grandfather “…so anyway, after the “shootout” Grandpa told me about what happened in the POW camps and how they were tortured and starved…most of his shipmates died there….” Chris paused again and gave the order to continue the firing until they were down to one ADCAP, then he continued. “…Granddad told me to make every shot in life count, that it wouldn’t do you any good if you couldn’t pause, take aim and shoot straight…” Chris paused again at his Grandfathers advice “…so, that’s what we are going to do. We have one shot…and we’re going to pause, take aim and shoot straight.”