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It's as big as the Empire State Building, a massive floating fortress at the throbbing heart of a U.S. Navy Carrier Battle Group.Its supersonic aircraft can level entire cities at a stroke. Its surveillance gear can track every target within thousands of square miles—in the air, on the surface, and under the sea. Its crew of six thousand works night and day to keep this awesome military machine at peak performance. It's a Nimitz-Class nuclear carrier, the most powerful weapons ...
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It's as big as the Empire State Building, a massive floating fortress at the throbbing heart of a U.S. Navy Carrier Battle Group.Its supersonic aircraft can level entire cities at a stroke. Its surveillance gear can track every target within thousands of square miles—in the air, on the surface, and under the sea. Its crew of six thousand works night and day to keep this awesome military machine at peak performance. It's a Nimitz-Class nuclear carrier, the most powerful weapons system on the planet. Nothing can touch it.
So when the first stunned messages say only that the Thomas Jefferson has disappeared, the Navy reacts with disbelief. But as her battered escorts report in, the truth becomes inescapable: a Nimitz-Class carrier has been claimed by nuclear catastrophe—the mightiest military unit on earth, vaporized without warning by an accidental detonation of unimaginable power. No other explanation is possible.
But as Navy maverick Bill Baldridge begins to investigate the disaster that claimed his idolized brother's life, another chilling alternative begins to emerge from the high-tech web of fleeting sonar contacts and elusive radar blips. It points to a rogue submarine commanded by a world-class undersea warrior with the steely nerve and cunning of a master spy. Suddenly it's up to Bill Baldridge to track down this shadowy nuclear terrorist, who has already turned America's ultimate weapon into the biggest sitting duck in history—and who still has another nuclear-tipped torpedo in his tubes. He's already proved he has the icy ruthlessness to incinerate six thousand sailors without a qualm. What will he do for an encore?
Inthese pages the modern military springs to life, form the Pentagon's tense conferences to the screaming flight deck of a giant carrier to the silent conning tower of an attack sub on full alert. But as Bill Baldridge races against time to pursue the nation's most deadly enemy, we are forced to ask ourselves serious real-life questions: Have defense budget cuts jeopardized our national security? Are we prepared to defend ourselves against naval terrorist? How safe are we? Nimitz Class is a world-class techno-thriller with a plot as riveting as Hunt for Red October—and an explosive twist out of tomorrow's headlines.
Today it's a novel. Tomorrow it might be the news.
In mid-2002, the USS Thomas Jefferson suddenly vanishes from the radar screens of the warships escorting it on a routine but dangerous patrol near the Persian Gulf. Aftershocks and radioactivity indicate that a nuclear blast has occurred. Appalled at the apparent vulnerability of the nation's most formidable weapon, the White House lets it be known that the giant vessel succumbed to an accidental detonation. Behind the scenes, however, the military/political complex mobilizes its intelligence-gathering resources to ascertain what really happened. Heading the probe is Lt. Cdr. Billy Baldridge, a world-class physicist whose brother was among the 6,000 to go down with the Jefferson. Proceeding from the premise that an inadvertent explosion was impossible, he soon determines that the carrier was atomized by a nuclear-tipped torpedo fired from a submarine. Although virtually all the world's undersea flotilla can be accounted for, the US President orders a clandestine assault on the three Kilo Class subs in drydock at Bandar Abbas, which Iran has acquired from the former USSR. In the meantime, Baldridge's to-the-ends-of-the-earth inquiries suggest the guilty party may be a matchless Israeli naval officer named Benjamin Adnam, now at the helm of a Russian sub once presumed lost in the Aegean. Adnam, it turns out, was an Iraqi plant on a doomsday mission on behalf of Saddam Hussein. While the West's operatives solve the basic puzzle, they must still deal with the intrepid Adnam and his crew, who remain at large with nuclear ordnance that threatens the mammoth flattops on which America and the world rely to keep the peace.
A hell-and-high-water technothriller, and an impressive debut from British journalist Robinson.
Deep in the Mediterranean Sea, halfway between the Greek mainland and the long western headland of Crete, lies the rough and rugged island of Kithira. It is a coarse rock, twenty miles long at most, set in the middle of a shining and bejeweled sea.
Along the eastern end of the Mediterranean there is a pure, transparent light which seems to flood the depths of the water. This is a paradise for visiting scuba divers, but for local fishermen, the azure ocean which surrounds them is a harsh and unforgiving place. There are not enough fish anymore. And life is as hard as it has ever been.
It was 5 a.m. on a hot morning early in July. The sun was just rising, and the fishing boat was sailing close to the rocky shore on the south side. Up on the portside of the bow, his feet trailing over the side, sat sixteen-year-old Dimitrios Morakis. He was in deep trouble.
On the previous afternoon he had managed to lose the only good net his family owned, and now his father Stephanos sat, unshaven and grumpy, on the tiller. The man was secretly proud of his golden-skinned son. And he stared at the boy's Etruscan nose, a mirror image of his own, and the large hands, too powerful for the slender, youthful body; the boy's genetic bounty from a long line of Kithiran fishermen.
Nonetheless, Stephanos was still peevish. "We'd better find it," he said, unnecessarily. And in a light morning breeze, they slapped along, against the wavelets, while out to the east, for a few translucent moments, the earth seemed to rise up through veils of scarlet and violet.
The net showed up more or less where Stephanos thought it would be, driven into a curved outcrop of rock bythe unvarying Aegean currents. Lost nets had been washing up against those particular rocks for centuries.
The problem was, it was jammed. Working in the water for almost half an hour, Dimitrios was unable to free it. "It's caught up way below the surface," he yelled to his father. "I'll get back on the boat and then dive deep with a fishing knife."
Three minutes later the boy split the water, headfirst, kicking his way downward. In the crystal clear depths, he found the bottom of the net, entwined and stuck in a crevasse between two rocks. There was no option but to cut it.
He stuck out his left hand to give himself purchase, and slashed the knife sideways. The net came free, and as it did so, Dimitrios tugged the twisted cord from the V-shaped gap in the rocks. He had been underwater for twenty-four seconds now, and he needed to surface.
But he was kicking against a weight on his shoulders. He twisted left and saw, still resting on his arm, two large black boots. Dimitrios pushed away and even in the water the weight was considerable, because these boots contained one full-sized, very drowned, human body, trapped by one arm in the ancient rocks of Kithira.
The other arm flapped free, skeletal. It had been eaten by fish and was swaying in the morning tide. Dimitrios stared at the white, bloated head, the eye sockets empty, the flesh on one side stripped from the skull, the teeth still there, the half-mouth grinning grotesquely in the clear water. It was a phantasm, straight from the imagination of the devil himself.
Choking with disgust, Dimitrios stared at the grisly cadaver as it continued performing its hideous slow-motion ballet just beneath the surface, the one arm and both legs rising and falling in the gentle swell, the body spot-lit by the finely focused underwater rays of the clear Aegean sun.
Then he turned and kicked with the frenzy of the truly terrified, desperate for air, driven by the ludicrous thought that somehow the specter would find a way to pursue him. He glanced down as he went, and as he did so, he noticed the sun creating a bright light on the dark blue jersey which covered the hideous white balloon of the waterlogged body—the light glistened upward, reflecting thinly, from a tiny, two-inch-long silver submarine badge, inlaid with a five-pointed red star.
April 22, 2002.The Indian Ocean. On board the United States Aircraft Carrier Thomas Jefferson . 9S, 92E. Speed 30.
They had waved him off twice now. And each time Lieutenant William R. Howell had eased open the throttle of his big F-14 interceptor/attack Tomcat and climbed away to starboard, watching the speed needle slide smoothly from 150 knots to 280 knots. The acceleration was almost imperceptible, but in seconds the lieutenant saw the six-story island of the carrier turn into a half-inch-high black thimble against the blue sky.
The deep Utah drawl of the Landing Signal Officer standing on the carrier stern was still calm: "Tomcat two-zero-one, we still have a fouled deck—gotta wave you off one more time—just an oil leak—this is not an emergency, repeat not an emergency."
Lieutenant Howell spoke quietly and slowly: "Tomcat two-zero-one. Roger that. I'm taking a turn around. Will approach again from twelve miles." He eased the fighter plane's nose up, just a fraction, and he felt his stomach tighten. It was never more than a fleeting feeling, but it always brought home the truth, that landing any aircraft at sea on the narrow, angled, 750-foot-long, pitching landing area remained a life-or-death test of skill and nerve for any pilot. It took most rookies a couple of months to stop their knees shaking after each landing. Pilots short of skill, or nerve, were normally found working on the ground, driving freight planes, or dead. He knew that there were around twenty plane-wrecking crashes on U.S. carriers each year.
From the rear seat, the radar-intercept officer (RIO), Lieutenant Freddie Larsen, muttered, "Shit. There's about a hundred of 'em down there, been clearing up an oil spill for a half hour—what the hell's going on?" Neither aviator was a day over twenty-eight years old, but already they had perfected the Navy flier's nonchalance in the face of instant death at supersonic speed. Especially Howell.
"Dunno," he said, gunning the Tomcat like a bullet through the scattered low clouds whipping past this monster twin-tailed warplane, now moving at almost five miles every minute. "Did y'ever see a big fighter jet hit an oil pool on a carrier deck?"
"It ain't pretty. If she slews out off a true line you gotta real good chance of killing a lot of guys. 'Specially if she hits something and burns, which she's damn near certain to do."
"Try to avoid that, will ya?"
Freddie felt the Tomcat throttle down as Howell banked away to the left. He felt the familiar pull of the slowing engines, worked his shoulders against the yaw of the aircraft, like the motorcycle rider he once had been.
The F-14 is not much more than a motorbike with a sixty-four-foot wingspan anyway. Unexpectedly sensitive to the wind at low speed, two rock-hard seats, no comfort, and an engine with the power to turn her into a mach-2 rocketship—1,400 knots, no sweat, out there on the edge of the U.S. fighter pilot's personal survival envelope.
Still holding the speed down to around 280 knots, Howell now took a long turn, the Tomcat heeled over at an angle of almost ninety degrees, the engines screaming behind him, as if the sound was trying to catch and swallow him. Up ahead he could no longer see the carrier because of the intermittent white clouds obscuring his vision and casting dark shadows on the blue water. Below the two fliers was one of the loneliest seaways on earth, the 3,500-mile stretch of the central Indian Ocean between the African island of Madagascar and the rock-strewn western coast of Sumatra.
The U.S. carrier and its escorts, forming a complete twelve-ship Battle Group including two nuclear-powered submarines, were steaming toward the American Naval base on Diego Garcia, the tiny atoll five hundred miles south of the equator, which represents the only safe Anglo-American haven in the entire area.
This was a real U.S. Battle Group seascape, a place where the most beady-eyed admirals and their staff "worked up" new missile systems, new warships, and endlessly catapulted their ace Naval aviators off the flight deck—zero to 168 knots in 2.1 seconds. This was not a spot for the faint-hearted. This was a simulated theater of war, designed strictly for the very best the nation could produce . . . men who possessed what Tom Wolfe immortally labeled "the right stuff." Everyone served out here for six interminable months at a time.
Lieutenant Howell, losing height down to 1,200 feet, spoke again to the carrier's flight controllers. "Tower, this is Tomcat two-zero-one at eight miles. Coming in again." His words were few, and again the jet fighter began to ease down, losing height, the engines throttling marginally off the piercing high-C shriek which would splinter a shelf of wineglasses. Howell, insulated behind his goggles and earphones, searched the horizon for the hundred-thousand-ton aircraft carrier.
His intercom crackled. "Roger, Tomcat two-zero-one. Your deck is cleared for landing now—gotcha visual . . . come on in, watch your altitude, and check your lineup. Wind's gusting at thirty knots out of the southwest. We're still right into it. You're all set."
"Roger, Tower . . . six miles."
On Wednesday, July 2, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Patrick Robinson, author of NIMITZ CLASS.
Patrick Robinson: Pleased to be here.
Patrick Robinson: I did start to think of the book because Saddam's regime is still alive. I also understand why America didn't win the war as fully as it might. A lot of very clever people decided that the consequences of removing Saddam were worse than keeping him. Had we killed him, the rest of his family might have taken over --- and some of them are much more erratic. There would have been a civil war. And had there been a civil war in Iraq, the forces of Iran would have swept around the Gulf to the north and almost certainly have taken Iraq while she bled to death. That would have caused one nation to dominate the majority of the world's oil supply. It was easier to leave Saddam in place. And less dangerous.
Patrick Robinson: I also wrote the biography of Admiral Sandy Woodward, who commanded the Royal Navy in the battle for the Falklands. Conducting that war made him one of the pre-eminent authorities on the placement of aircraft carriers --- in the world. It was a subject we discussed long and often. Should a giant American carrier be placed at the forefront of the world's trouble spot? Is this fortress at sea a sitting duck?
Patrick Robinson: It should NOT be kept forward! And a lot of people in the Pentagon think that too. But the men in the Pentagon who think that the very presence of this giant world policeman in trouble spots keeps the peace have, thus far, been proved right. But no security system is 100% leakproofs. And Admiral Woodward does think that there are a handful of terrorists who, in a diesel electric sub, could get in and conduct an attack.
Patrick Robinson: Those people who could commit such an atrocity are either British or American! No one else is good enough to do it. NIMITZ CLASS deals with the possibility that, in the future, an Islamic Fundamentalist could learn the trade well enough to conduct such an operation. He would be driving the readily available Russian Kilo class submarine.
Patrick Robinson: They are the only nation who could have taught him. Americans don't teach foreigners.
Patrick Robinson: And after NIMITZ CLASS, my admiral says, there's a very good possibility that the Brits will never teach another foreigner!
Patrick Robinson: Yes, it's a warning. Because once you've exposed such a dastardly scenario, you're well on the way to dealing with it. People will say, "You can't treat an aircraft carrier like a tour ship!"
Patrick Robinson: Oh, yes. We are. And in the Admiral's afterword, he suggests this ought to be compulsory reading for all junior officers --- at least those with submarine ambitions. No matter how sophisticated your surveillance, in the end you will always be reliant on people. You're down to a man --- who may be quite young --- who's sitting in front of a screen. And he says, "There's an engine line....within 20 miles." It's about vigilance and determination and absolute alertness. And I am bound to say that the American barrier battle groups have always demonstrated such alertness. NIMITZ CLASS is an example of what might happen when you are dealing with an enemy in a silent submarine who is as clever as you are.
Patrick Robinson: Never been in a war. But I've spent so much time with Admiral Woodward, that, it turns out, I'm talking with the only man who's conducted a naval war in 40 years. He lost 7 ships, including all 3 destroyers. But he did destroy the Argentinean air force. He knocked out 80 fighter aircraft. And, of course, sank the great Argentine battle cruiser. So I have been academically close to a great naval commander.
Patrick Robinson: They probably are better because they move about the Middle East in a stealthy way. They have a very small fighting force --- only 1200 people. And they have a vast network of friends and sympathizers in the Middle East. And they are absolutely ruthless.
Patrick Robinson: They were helpful, but the very steely American intelligence chief had put them very much on the defensive. So it was prudent for them to cooperate.
Patrick Robinson: Possibly. But these cuts haven't really bitten yet. The US is still the most colossal power on earth --- and it will be 30 years before that changes. All politicians should, however, be advised to listen to what the US Navy says. Because they're the guys who are out there.
Patrick Robinson: I had a very senior American warship captain. And an Admiral inside the Pentagon. And two recently retired Admirals. Even more obviously, I suppose, I was a great admirer of President Reagan. I still am. My President in the book was unashamedly modeled on what I thought he would do or say.
Patrick Robinson: I'd like to be able to write like Hemingway --- along with everyone else. But I rather stumbled onto this path. I spent so long dealing with the realities of the Falklands War. There was quite a learning curve. Admiral Woodward lost a destroyer on Day One of the war because someone made a mistake. The lessons there were extraordinary. Everyone had to get sharper. And in the Gulf War, there were 4 major missiles launched at American ships. Every one was spotted --- and the alarm was sounded --- by the Royal Navy. Every one of those men had fought with Woodward. The arrival of an impending missile tends to concentrate the mind. The commodore of the Royal Navy Fleet in the Gulf War was Christopher Craig, captain of H.M.S. Alacrity, which was in the thick of the fighting in the Falklands, fighting off wave after wave of Argentinean bombers. Rather cool, really.
Patrick Robinson: Absolutely! I have written it already. It's called KILO CLASS and deals with the menace of these silent little Russian subs. Another techno-thriller with a hard core of reality to it.
Patrick Robinson: I wasn't thinking of it, but I wasn't shocked when we got an offer --- right off the manuscript --- from Universal Studios. And John McTiernan, who directed HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, will direct it.
Patrick Robinson: No, I won't. I sold it. I've read enough of authors getting embroiled. My job is to write books. His is to make films.