Stephen Coonts' bestelling novels takes readers into the heart of harrowing, pulse-pounding action, whether on land, on sea, or in the air. Now, this master of full-tilt, blockbuster suspense turns into a lush setting 90 miles from U.S. soil. In Cuba, Fidel Castro lies dying. Human sharks are circling. And one man has his finger on the trigger of a weapon that will change everything...
Admiral Jake Grafton is overseeing a shipment of nerve gas being transferred for a top-secret U.S. stockpile at Guantanamo Bay. But a power struggle inside Cuba has ignited an explosive plot and turned a horrific new weapon on the U.S. Now, Jake must strap himself into the cockpit of a new generation of American aircraft and fly blind into the heart of an island that is about to blowand take the whole world with it...
About the Author
Stephen Coonts is the author of The Disciple, The Assassin, and the Deep Black and Saucers series, among many other bestsellers. His first novel, the classic flying tale Flight of the Intruder, spent more than six months at the top of The New York Times bestseller list. A motion picture based on the book was released in 1991. His novels have been published around the world and translated into more than a dozen languages. In 1986, he was honored by the U.S. Naval Institute with its Author of the Year Award. He is also the editor of four anthologies, Combat, On Glorious Wings, Victory and War in the Air. Coonts served in the Navy from 1969 to 1977, including two combat cruises on the USS Enterprise during the last years of the Vietnam War.
Date of Birth:July 19, 1946
Place of Birth:Morgantown, West Virginia
Education:B.A., West Virginia University, 1968; J.D., University of Colorado, 1979
Read an Excerpt
There were just too many Cuban troops at Silo One. The two SuperCobras assigned there expended their Hellfire missiles on the tanks and trucks, then scourged the area with 20-MM cannon shells. Between them the assault choppers fired 1,500 rounds of 20-MM. As the first two assault choppers headed back to Key West for fuel and ammo, Battlestar Control aboard United States routed other SuperCobras to the site. They began flaying the area with a vengeance.
The problem was that the troops were fairly well dug in. Almost a thousand men had arrived in the area early that morning under an energetic young commander who had ordered trenches dug and machine guns emplaced in earth and log fortifications. Two small bulldozers helped with the digging.
The machine-gun nests were gone now, victims of Hellfire missiles, but the troops in trenches were harder to kill. Fortunately for the Cubans, the trenches were not straight, but zigged and zagged around trees and stones and natural obstacles.
The young commander was dead now, killed by a single cannon shell that had torn his head off when he'd tried to look over the lip of a trench to find the SuperCobras. Most of his officers were also dead. Two of the SuperCobras had been shot down, one by machine-gun fire and the other by a trooper with an AK-47, who had managed to kill the pilot with a shot in the neck. The first chopper managed to autorotate down, and the crew jumped from their machine into an empty trench. With a dead man at the controls, the second machine flew straight into the ground.
The SuperCobras on site were almost out of ammo, and they were too low on fuel to fly the width of the Florida Strait. Accordingly, Jake Grafton ordered the crews to remain engaged and use their weapons sparingly. He also diverted all the SuperCobras with ammo remaining into the area.
The noise of eight assault choppers hovering around the battlefield that centered on the barn did the trick. One by one, the Cubans threw down their weapons and climbed out of their trenches with their hands over their heads.
Several of the SuperCobras turned on their landing lights and hovered over the barn, turning this way and that so that their lights shone over the men living and dead that littered the ground.
Minutes later an Osprey landed just a hundred feet from the entrance to the barn. Toad Tarkington was the first man out. When that V-22 had emptied its troops, it lifted off and another settled into the same spot. Marines with rifles at the ready came pouring out.
Inside the fighter Corrado was watching his electronic warning equipment. As he suspected, the Americans had a bunch of radars aloft tonight, everything from large search radars to fighter radars. He immediately recognized the radar signature of the F-14 Tomcat, which he had seen just a week or so ago out over the Caribbean.
Yep, they were up there, and as soon as the wheels came up, they would be trying to kill him.
A man only dies once, Corrado reflected. The Church doesn't make very much of that fact, but it can be a comfort at times. Everyone dies, but only once.
Carlos Corrado taxied his MiG-29 on the runway and shoved the twin throttles forward to the stop, then into afterburner. The MiG-29 rocketed forward. Safely airborne, Corrado raised the landing gear and came out of afterburner. Passing four hundred knots, he lowered the nose and retarded the throttles, then swung into a turn that would point the sleek Russian fighter at Havana.
Cannon shells and shrapnel from Hellfire warheads had played hob with the wooden barn structure. Holes and splintered boards and timbers were everywhere standing inside, Toad could see the landing lights of the helicopters and hear Americans shouting.
Apparently several dozen men had taken refuge in the barn; their bloody bodies lay where the bullets or shrapnel or splinters from the timbers had cut them down. The floor and walls were splattered with blood.
Toad found the wooden door, got it open, used his flashlight to examine the steel inner door. He set three C-4 charges around the combination lock, and took cover.
The charges tore the lock out of door and warped the thing so badly it wouldn't open. Toad struggled with it, only got it open because two Marines who had come in to check out the interior gave him a hand.
The stairway on the other side of the door was in total darkness. Not a glimmer of light.
With his flashlight in his left hand and his pistol in his right, Toad slowly worked his way down.
He saw lightbulbs in sockets over his head, but they were not on. Once he came to a switch. He flipped it on and off several times. No electrical power.
At the bottom of the stairs he came to a larger room. The beam of the flashlight caught an instrument panel, a control console. A bit of a face...
Toad brought the light back to the face.
A white face, eyes scrunched against the flashlight glare. An old man, skinny, with short white hair, frozen in the flashlight beam, holding his hands above his head.
The AWACS crew reported the MiG as a bogey and assigned it a track number. They would be able to classify it as to type as soon as the pilot turned on his radar.
Unfortunately, Carlos Corrado failed to cooperate. He left his radar switch in the OFF position. He also stayed low, just a few hundred meters above the treetops.
There are few places more lonely than the cockpit of a single-piloted airplane at night when surrounded by the enemy. Corrado felt that loneliness now, felt as if he were the only person still alive on Spaceship Earth.
The red glow of the cockpit lights comforted him somewhat: this was really the only home he had ever had.
The lights of Havana were prominent tonighthe saw the glow at eighty kilometers, even though he was barely three hundred meters above sea level. He climbed a little higher, looking, and saw a huge fire, quite brilliant.
Carlos Corrado turned toward the fire. Perhaps he would find some airborne targets. He turned on his gun switch and armed the infrared missiles.
"What the hell is it?" the pilot demanded, referring to the bogey.
"I don't know," was the reply, and therein was the problem. Without a positive identification, visual or electronic, of the bogey, the rules of engagement prohibited the American pilot from firing his weapons. There were simply too many American planes and helicopters flying around in the darkness over Cuba to allow people to blaze away at unknown targets.
The darkness below was alive with lights, the lights of cities and small towns, villages, vehicles, and here and there, anti-aircraft artilleryflakwhich was probing the darkness with random bursts. Fortunately the gunners could not use radar to acquire a target the instant they turned a radar on, they drew a HARM missile from the EA-6Bs and F/A-18s which circled on the assigned stations, listening.
The F-14 pilot, whose name was Wallace P. "Stiff" Hardwick, got on the radio to Battlestar Control. "Battlestar, Showtime One Oh Nine, request permission to investigate this bogey."
Stiff expected that. Being a fighter pilot in this day and age wasn't like the good old days, when you went cruising for a fight. Not that he was there for the good old days, but Stiff had sure heard about them.
"That goddamn Cuban is gonna zap somebody while the people on the boat are scratching their ass," Stiff told his RIO, Boots VonRauenzahn.
"Yeah," said Boots, who never paid much attention to Stiff's grousing.
He flew right over the V-22 Osprey carrying Tommy Armellini and Doll Hanna back to the ship and never saw it.
A lot of flak was rising from the outskirts of Havana, so Carlos turned east, away from it.
In the black velvet ahead he saw lights, and steered toward them. At 500 knots he closed quickly, and saw helicopter landing lights! They were flying back and forth over a large barn!
They must be Americans they sure as hell weren't Cuban. As far as he knew, he was the only Cuban in the air tonight.
Corrado flew past the area now down to four hundred knotsand did a ninety-degree left turn, then a two-hundred-seventy-degree right turn. Level, inbound, he retarded the throttles of the two big engines. Three hundred knots...he picked up the landing lights of some kind of strange-looking twin rotor helicopter and pushed the nose over just a tad, bringing it into the gunsight. Then he pulled the trigger on the stick.
The 30-MM cannon shells smashed into Rita Moravia's Osprey with devastating effect. She was in the midst of a transition from wing-borne flight to rotor-borne flight and had the engines pointed up at a seventy-degree angle. This twelve-second operation was controlled by a computer. The rotors were carrying most of the weight of the 25-ton ship, so when the cannon shell ripped in the right engine and it ceased developing power, the V-22 began sinking rapidly.
The good engine automatically went to one hundred percent RPM and transferred some of its power to the rotor of the bad engine through a transmission interconnect.
With shells thumping into the plane, Rita felt the bottom fall out. The one engine she had couldn't handle the load.
She pushed the nose over, trying to maintain rotor RPMs. The ground rushed at her, even as the cannon shells continued to rip the plane.
She pulled back on the nose and felt the rotors bite into the air. Then the machine smashed into the earth and she lost consciousness.
One candle wasn't much, but it did light the room. Toad turned off the flashlight and stood there looking at the old man.
Muffled crashing sounds reached him, echoed down the stairwell, but no one came. Toad's head set was quiet too, probably since he was underground.
"Do you speak English?" Toad asked the white-haired man in front of him.
The old man shook his head.
"Well, I don't."
Toad walked over and checked the man, who had no visible weapons on him.
He had a handful of plastic ties in his pocket. These ties were issued to every Marine for the sole purpose of securing prisoners' hands, and feet if necessary. Toad put a tie around the old man's hands. The man didn't resist; merely sat at the control console with his face a mask, showing no emotion.
"Cuban?" Toad asked.
The white head bobbed once, then was still.
Toad used the flashlight to inspect the console, to examine the instruments. This stuff was old, he could see that. Everything was mechanical, no digital gauges or readouts, no computer displays...the console reminded Toad of the dashboard of a 1950's automobile, with round gauges and bezels and...
Well, without power, all this was academic.
His job was to get that damned warhead out of the missile, then set demolition charges to destroy all this stuff, missile, control room and all. He left the Russian at the console and opened the blast-proof door across the room from the stair where he had entered.
Another stairway led downward.
Toad went as quickly as he dared, still holding the flashlight in one hand and his pistol in the other.
He went through one more steel door...and there the missile stood, white and massive and surreal in the weak beam of the flashlight.
Battlestar Control finally managed to get a word in over the babble, a call to Stiff Hardwick. "Go down for a look. Possible hostile may have shot down an Osprey."
Stiff didn't need any urging. He rolled the Tomcat onto its back, popped the speedbrakes, and started down.
"Silo One," Boots said, "this bogey is flitting around down there like a goddamn bat or something, mixing it up with the SuperCobras and Ospreys. Let's not shoot down any of the good guys."
"No shit," said Stiff, who was sure he could handle any Cuban fighter alive. This guy was meat on the table. He just didn't know it yet.
He had seen helicopters down there, at least two. It was time to use radar.
As he stabilized inbound he flipped the radar switch to "transmit." He pushed the button for moving targets and, sure enough, within seconds the pulse-Doppler radar in the nose of the MiG-29 had found three. The rest of the drill was simplicity itself--he selected an Aphid missile, locked it on target, and fired. Working quickly, he selected a second missile, locked on a second target, and fired.
He had to keep the targets illuminated while the Aphids were in flight, so he continued inbound toward the silo.
an Aphid drilled it dead center. The second missile tore the tail rotor off its target, which spun violently into the ground and caught fire.
Carlos flew across the barn, holding his heading, extending out before he turned to make another shooting pass.
When he reached the catwalk he walked around the missile, examining the skin. There was the little access port, six inches by six inches, with the dozen screws! That had to be it.
Toad put the flashlight under his left armpit and got out a screwdriver.
He had three screws out when the flashlight slipped out of his armpit and fell. It bounced off the catwalk and went on down beside the missile, breaking when it hit the grate at the bottom.
The darkness in the silo was total.
Toad cursed softly, and went back to taking out screws. He worked by feel. Someone will come along in a minute, he thought, bringing another flashlight. If someone doesn't, he would take time to go find another.
The trick, he knew, would be to hold on to the screwdriver. He only had one, and if he dropped it, it would go down the grate.
He heard muffled noises from above, but he couldn't tell what they were. It didn't really matter, he decided. Getting this warhead out of this missile was priority one.
Carefully, working by feel, he removed the screws from the access panel one by one. When he had the last one out, he pried at the panel. It came off easily enough and he laid it on the catwalk near his feet.
So far, so good. He carefully stowed the screwdriver in his tool bag and wiped the sweat from his face and hands.
Toad reached up to find the latch that the ancient Russian engineer had said should be there. God knows where the CIA found that guy!
Yep. He found the latch.
He rotated it. Now the latch on the left. He was having his troubles getting the latch to turn when the lights came on in the silo.
From instant darkness to glaring light from twenty or more bulbs.
Toad pulled his arm from the missile, clapped his hands over his eyes and squinted, waiting for his eyes to adjust.
He could hear a hum. Must be a fan or blower moving air.
No. The hum was in the missile, just a foot or two from his head.
Something was winding up. The pitch was rising rapidly.
What was going on?
Toad started down the ladder, moving as fast as he could go, intending to go to the control room to see what in the hell was happening.
He heard a grinding noise, loud, low-pitched, and looked up. The cap on the silo was opening.
He still had his tools. If he could get that access panel off and cut the guidance wires, the wires to control the warhead...
The American scrambled back up the ladder.
The little six-by-six access hole gaped at him. He ran his arm in, trying to reach the other latches that would allow the large panel to come off.
He got one open. The gyro had ceased to accelerate it was running steady now, a high-pitched steady whine.
He was out of time: the fire from the missile's engines would fry him to a cinder.
He heard the igniters firing, popping like jet engine igniters.
The rocket motors lit with a mighty whoosh....
Copyright © 1999 by Stephen Coonts
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Get your hands on this book. One of Coonts' best, up there with Final Flight and Under Seige. Coonts' brings his characters alive in a realistic story which keeps the reader on the edge of their seats. As with Under Seige, Jake Grafton really takes a back seat to the other new dynamic charcters. I sincerely hope Castro reads this book. He needs to think about Cuba after he leaves more than we do!
The first third was a slow historical background of Cuba. Not typical of other books by Coonts. Also I have never read any book that had so many typographical errors. After getting into the book though, I did enjoy it.
'Cuba' was a decent spy novel, though it seemed disjointed until the end-- with its various subplots subdividing and growing into a tangled mess, though you never quite lost track of what was going on. I think Coonts stiffened the flow of it by including lengthy segments of military jargon. We get it, you have experience with it, move on. It did a decent job of presenting the varied social, ethnic, and cultural realities of Cuba while not losing track of the main plot. As a Cuban-American, I can say that most fiction writers do a terrible job and try to portray Cuba as a generic Latin-American country. Coonts does a little bit of that, but only in respect to the 'Latin personality', which I'm not going to argue against. A lot of his character developments were pretty weak though, despite the fact that he tried (it was probably a result of having too many protagonists). This is a good read if you're interested in spy novels and to some extent Cuba and Foreign Affairs.
Fun to read. Typical of Mr. Coonts, fast-paced, strong characterizations and exotic locale.
Not superior but still excellent! A shattering conclusion is still in tact! Great adventure.
I was somewhat disapointed about reading this book but it still was good.
stephen coonts puts the reader in the cockpit of a combat aircraft like no other contemporary writer. first rate.
An okay read.
A pretty good military fiction. It's one of those "I guess something like that could happen" books.
Followed Jake and his young friend Toad through all episodes, great reading
Good read. Coonts is a good story teller.
Remember this book is 15+ years old,but it offers a possible scenario about what was happening in Cuba circa 1999 that could have worked out in that time frame. Still a good read for fans of Admiral Grafton and Tommy Carmellini.
This was a disappointing book. Compared to all the other Coonts book this was boring.
Love the characters. Great book
Shades of old pulps plus comic book captions smash bang pop !!!!!
You do that. Add some commentary, or even HELP him.
Hey guys. She took of her gun and knives throwing them on the ground and tied her long black hair back. Jason isabella was more than willing. She sat on a rock letting the sun warm her
Well, Im gonna watch Gale beat the living sh*t out of Ben.