World War with China explodes in Hunter Killer, David Poyer's dramatic new thriller. The United States stands nearly alone in its determination to fight, rather than give into the expansionist demands of the aggressive new “People’s Empire.” The naval and air forces of the Associated Powers – China, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea – have used advanced technology and tactical nuclear weapons to devastate America's fleet in the Pacific, while its massive army forced humiliating surrenders on Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other crucial allies.
Admiral Dan Lenson, commanding a combined US–South Korean naval force, and Commander Cheryl Staurulakis of USS Savo Island fight to turn the tide and prepare for an Allied counteroffensive. Meanwhile, SEAL operator Teddy Oberg escapes from a hellish POW camp and heads west through desolate mountains toward what he hopes will be freedom. Hector Ramos, an unwilling recruit, learns the Marine Corps has an ethos all its own. And in Washington, DC, Dan’s wife Blair Titus helps formulate America's political response to overwhelming setbacks in the Pacific and at on the home front.
Filled with dramatic battle scenes, from ship, submarine, and air warfare to desperate hand-to-hand Marine Corps combat, and informed by the author's own background as a Navy captain and defense analyst, Hunter Killer is a powerful, all-too-believable novel about how the next world war might unfold.
About the Author
DAVID POYER's sea career included service in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, Caribbean, and Pacific. He's the author of over forty novels and works of nonfiction including the War with China series: Tipping Point, Onslaught, Hunter Killer, and Deep War. Poyer's work has been required reading in the Literature of the Sea course at the U.S. Naval Academy, along with that of Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville. He lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam, Hawaii
His ride showed up at the Navy Lodge that morning, as promised. "Captain Lenson?" The driver peered up, bulky in flak vest, sidearm, and helmet. He had a black carbine bracketed by the Humvee's wheel. "Needed a lift, up to Camp Smith?"
"Don this vest, sir."
Dan started to protest — they were only going from one base area to another, and the temperature was already in the low nineties — but pulled the Kevlar over his khakis. Then wriggled in, jamming his briefcase by his feet and settling his combination cap in his lap. The motor roared and he settled back, trying to get comfortable in a seat obviously designed for someone much shorter.
Hastily erected barbed-wire-and-concrete barriers, as well as bright orange plastic road barriers — confiscated, no doubt, from the Hawaii roads department — walled off the base area. Dan shaded his eyes as the morning sun flashed off the Southeast Loch. Off Ford Island, the Arizona Memorial bridged white against the glowing water. Beyond loomed the gray bulk of USS Missouri. A war had ended on her decks, with the surrender of an empire.
Now a new war had come, and with it new horrors.
The driver muttered, "What they got you doing in this fucked-up war, Captain?"
"Uh, saw some action off Taiwan ... but right now, I'm sort of up in the air."
The marine's glance snagged. He squinted at the road, then back at Dan's chest. "Is that the ...? Sir?"
The blue-and-white ribbon often got that reaction. "Yeah."
"The Congressional? Sir?"
"Jeez. I mean ... now I know who you are. Um, what I said, about the war being fucked up, I meant ..."
He trailed off, and Dan didn't ask him to elaborate. Because he was exactly right.
They skirted the pier area, tires humming. Deserted, except for one littoral combat ship and the gray upperworks of a Burke-class: USS Mitscher, at the naval shipyard. The destroyer had absorbed three missiles in the Taiwan Strait action. He should stop in and see her CO. ... Two weeks of medical leave had caught him up on sleep, restoring him somewhat from the Savo crud, and he'd gotten his neck and shoulder looked at. He'd written an after-action report, and put his people in for decorations. But he still had outstanding issues. Such as the investigation into his actions aboard USS Savo Island, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser he'd commanded.
Dan twisted a heavy gold Annapolis ring. He was on his way in to meet with Barry "Nick" Niles. Once Dan's patron, then nemesis, then reluctant rabbi again, Niles had just taken over as chief of naval operations. Now, apparently, he'd come out to consult with the theater commander about the direction of the war.
The driver halted at a barriered gate. Diesels snorted. A crane-arm rotated in slow jerks, dangling another concrete barrier into place. Armed sentries examined their IDs, then waved them through, returning their scrutiny to the road in.
Dan cleared his throat. "What's the Corps take? We expect Hawaii to be attacked?"
"Happened before," the sergeant observed laconically.
Dan raised his eyebrows, but couldn't think of a comeback.
The war had begun with a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India. China's attack on India, to support its ally, had broadened the conflict. The U.S. and India had imposed a blockade. Escalating in turn, the People's Republic had knocked out American communications and reconnaissance satellites.
When the Allies countered, Premier Zhang Zurong had upped the ante again. He'd suppressed Taiwanese defenses with ballistic missiles and air attacks, then launched a cross-strait invasion. And when USS Franklin D. Roosevelt had sailed to assist the Taiwanese, he'd done the unthinkable. Destroyed the entire battle group with a nuclear-tipped missile ... killing almost ten thousand U.S. servicemen and -women.
Meanwhile, war had resumed between South and North Korea, and U.S. bases in Okinawa had been taken down with missile strikes, then seaborne invasion.
Now battles raged in India and Vietnam, on Taiwan and Okinawa. And so far, the Chinese seemed to be winning them all.
The driver murmured, "Said you saw action, Captain?"
"Fighting the slants, right?"
Dan hadn't heard this term before, but it was easy to guess what it meant. The marine said, "So, they tough, or what? We gonna come back out there, right?"
"They're definitely tough," Dan said. "We're going to have to put our shoulders to the wheel to win this one."
They left the expressway for a winding two-laner, climbing through a residential area. Many of the homes were boarded up, as if for a typhoon. The driver noticed him noticing. "A lot of the folks up here packed up and left town. Went back to the mainland."
A wooded hill rose. They passed a football field, a baseball field, parking, a pool. At another sentry post, a machine gun overwatched sandbagged barriers. Dan's ID got a more thorough inspection here, and his briefcase was searched. Sweat trickled under his Kevlar.
Finally they were waved through this one too. The engine labored as the Humvee climbed. At last it coasted to a halt beneath nodding nipa palms, between two huge new buildings. "In that side door, not the front," his escort advised as they got out. So the guy was there to take him in personally. "You can leave the ballistic protection in the vehicle, sir," he added.
Building 700, the Nimitz-MacArthur Pacific Command Center, overlooked the harbor and the shipyard. To the north rose ridges of hills, the nearest crowned with homes, the farthest still green with palms and tropical hardwoods, laced with pearlescent mist. To the east rolled more forest, more hills. To the west, the city. The palm fronds clashed in a sudden breeze, like the rattle of swordplay. He stood for a moment looking down toward the sea, letting the wind dry his sweat. Then followed his escort into a concrete entranceway.
HE'D figured to meet Niles in some office, but his escort led him down a back corridor to an unmarked steel door. After another ID check, the driver racked his rifle in a wall mount, getting a metal tag like a coat check in exchange.
The four-person elevator started slow. Dan looked for a control panel, but there wasn't any. Then it dropped very fast. He grabbed his nose and cleared his ears. He grunted, "How far down are we ...?" Then comprehension arrived.
The Navy had determined never to be taken by surprise again.
He stepped out into an icy-cold, compact, hospital-stark, LED-lit passageway.
The marine led the way. Obviously he'd been here before. Dan nodded to Army personnel — they tended to sulk if ignored in passageways — but didn't to Navy or Air Force unless they greeted him first. Which most, looking harried or intent on their own tasks, didn't. Meeting rooms, situation rooms, intelligence spaces, opened off the central passageway. They turned one corner, then another. Dan's nape prickled as he recognized the right-angle designs, the slanted-away walls at the corners. It looked like feng shui, but it was to limit blast damage, in case a bunker-penetrator made it this deep.
Admiral Barry "Nick" Niles stood before a large-screen display, his back to the door. With his arms crossed, his shoulders looked even broader than they were. The screen glowed with the Pacific Command logo, an eagle with wings spread over a globe oriented to display the Western Ocean. Niles seemed to be studying the Chinese coast. It was the first time Dan had ever seen him in a civilian suit. It didn't make the new CNO look any smaller.
"Admiral? Captain Lenson's here." The marine eased the heavy door shut behind himself. So the guy wasn't just any old pool driver. He must be one of the CNO's aides.
"'We'll be back,'" Niles said to the screen, not turning.
He was quoting what Dan had told a pool reporter after Savo Island had limped home damaged from the battle in the strait. "They're making you into a hero. CNN, Fox, they showcased your attack. Bankey Talmadge quoted you on the Senate floor."
"I'm no hero, Admiral."
"Hey, I'm not objecting. Right now, we can use some positive news. They've kicked us back to Guam. The Marianas. Hawaii. Still believe it? That we can win this thing?"
Dan tried to fight his Academy reflexes, in terms of coming to attention, but didn't do all that well. "Yes, sir. If we can scrape our shit together."
Still speaking to the screen, like the Dark Queen to her magic mirror, Niles rumbled, "There are those who don't. Who think we're finished, as a country."
Dan coughed into a fist. "The Germans thought that about us, twice. The Japanese. And the Russians. Zhang's just the latest to make that mistake."
Silence, as if his answer were being weighed. Then Niles said reluctantly. "I hope you're right. How's your ship?"
"Savo's getting a new bow. Also, the ALIS software upgrade. Sonar's degraded —"
"A hard point. We get excuses, but no rounds. There's adequate gun ammo, but very few missile reloads."
"I'm working that. Who did you leave in charge?"
"My exec. Cheryl Staurulakis."
"Good as they come."
"Yes, sir. I put her in for the Bronze Star. And maybe we could discuss the other decorations I put in for, for my people —"
"Later, okay? Maybe we'll leave her there. How's the wife ... Blair? Did she win her election?"
"Not sure yet, sir."
"Not sure? What's that mean?"
"They're in a recount, sir. Less than two hundred votes difference."
"Well, if she loses, could be for the best." Niles turned away from the screen, and Dan blinked with shock at a ravaged visage. Reddened, swollen lids above sleepless eyes. Vein-shot, puffy cheeks.
Maybe we'll leave her there ... could be for the best. He contemplated both equivocal statements as Niles lumbered to a side table, bent over a notebook, and began typing, the huge fingers darting with incongruous delicacy.
Equivocation wasn't Niles's style. But Dan Lenson wouldn't be here if the new CNO didn't have something in mind. Most likely, something he wouldn't like.
Niles cleared his throat. "I've been getting unpleasant questions about you from a certain European country. And from Congress."
Congress ... he knew who was behind that. "Yes, sir. May I address any of them?"
"Yeah, you may. First, about your hasty retreat after a Chinese sub sank your tanker in the East China Sea."
"True, sir. I left the torpedo danger area after GNS Stuttgart was attacked. You can tell Berlin we were the only ballistic-missile-defense-capable unit left in theater. I withdrew to protect that asset. I left USS Mitscher to prosecute the datum and rescue survivors."
"I see. What about your unauthorized attack on the invasion force as it crossed the Taiwan Strait?"
Dan took a deeper breath. "I kept Fleet and PaCom informed as the situation developed, to the extent compromised communications permitted. I requested guidance, but received none. I judged that if we degraded the invasion fleet, it might be enough to let the ROC kick the mainlanders off the beach. As it turned out, we sank most of their heavy armor."
"Actually, we think now one of our subs got those transports. But it's murky." Niles shrugged. "Let's say half credit. Finally, about your killing a Joint Missile Program scientist."
"Dr. Noblos was NCIS's prime suspect in a series of sexual assaults, rape, and attempted murder aboard Savo Island. He stole a pistol and hijacked a boat. He was headed for Chinese-held territory. He knew everything about our missile defenses. My choices were to let him go, or blow him out of the water."
"And as usual, you took the extreme solution."
Dan clenched his fists. "With all due respect, sir, that's uncalled for."
Niles sagged into a chair like a collapsing warehouse. He blinked at the bulkhead. "Maybe so ... I also know about your yanking Min Jun Jung back by the scruff of the neck when he was trying to pull off a new Charge of the Light Brigade. You probably saved us the Korean Fleet there."
A tap on the door. "Yeah," Niles barked. A commander stuck her head in, looking apprehensive. She tilted her wrist to display a watch. "Coming," Niles rasped. To Dan, "I'm still making my mind up about you." He got up like a Wellsian Martian heaving himself out of the pit. "Meanwhile, why don't you tag along to this. You're the only one here who's actually fought these people. Maybe you can contribute something useful for a change."
THIS room was larger than the one he'd met Niles in. The briefer had a familiar tanned, too-handsome face. Jack Byrne, now in a gray suit andtie instead of the trop khaki or blues of a Naval Intelligence captain. They exchanged lifted eyebrows, but there was no time for more. Too many stars were settling into the front row, looking tense, impatient. Looking angry.
Byrne opened. "Admiral, Generals, CNO: a quick overview, leading to discussion of a limited set of immediate options," he said into a sudden eerie quiet. "Most of you know this, but we have to start from the same page. Our security position in the Pacific lies in ruins. Our job is to stabilize the situation.
"Premier Zhang Zurong has threatened the continental U.S. with a secretly amassed arsenal of over a thousand nuclear warheads. His position: Beijing is now a superpower. Washington must acknowledge that by withdrawing from the Asian Rim. There are reports of food shortages in mainland China, but also of savage repression. In Hong Kong a hundred thousand people have been imprisoned or deported to the interior, and many shot in the streets. On land, massive armies are invading Vietnam, India, Mongolia, and north Burma. All, quote, to 'restore China's historic borders.'"
A four-star admiral leaned to confer with Niles. Dan recognized the twisted, almost deformed face of Justin "Jim" Yangerhans, the commander in chief, Pacific. The viceroy for half the globe. In charge, now, of fighting the most populous country, and the largest economy, on earth.
Which was whipping the United States soundly on every front.
Byrnes said, "Zhang's consolidating his hold on western Taiwan. Six divisions there now, nearly half a million troops total. He's imprisoned thousands in makeshift camps. This morning mainland troops blew up Chiang Kai-shek's tomb. But some loyal forces are still holding out in the mountains."
"For how long?" an Army general whispered.
Byrne continued. "The Philippines has neutralized itself, acknowledging Chinese hegemony and renouncing all claims in the China Sea. Japan's called its navy home, and is mulling the proffered cease-fire. India, Vietnam, Australia, and South Korea are still aligned with us. Indonesia may be coming in. They can add little in the way of forces, but — location, location, location. Canada and Britain are cheering us, but from the sidelines.
"We're still fighting. The Koreans and the U.S. Second Division are holding, but isolated and reduced to in-place logistics." Byrne looked at Dan. "The South Korean Navy, led by Admiral Min Jun Jung, retreated shoulder to shoulder with the United States Navy, after a daring raid intothe strait led by Captain Daniel V. Lenson. Who is with us here today." Men and women craned to look in Dan's direction. "They plan to fight on alongside us, and someday soon, return."
Byrne lifted a finger, and a wall screen lit. A heavyset Asian in a military uniform and black plastic-rimmed glasses stared out at them. "Captain Lenson, I believe you know this man."
Dan stared into Zhang Zurong's expressionless, chilling gaze. The sensation was like pressing his eyeballs against cold, polished steel.
He'd met the smooth-faced, pudgy Zhang decades before, in a Chinatown restaurant, at what had seemed at the time like a family party. But "Uncle Xinhu" had turned out to be a senior colonel in the Second Department, China's equivalent of Defense Intelligence. Dan had turned over fake Tomahawk schematics in Operation Snapdragon. But by the time the FBI had showed up on Zhang's doorstep, he'd decamped for his homeland. Leaving a dead girl on a towpath in Georgetown ... an innocent, idealistic woman Dan had loved.
He dragged himself back to the present as Byrne said, "Zhang's executed his rivals and consolidated his position as both Party general secretary and state president. He now holds all leading titles in the state.
"On the diplomatic front, he proposes peace on the basis of 'union and demilitarization' of the two Chinas and the two Koreas. He offers to return Okinawa to Japan. But in exchange, all remaining U.S. bases in Japanese territory must be vacated, and alliance ties dissolved.
"He also warns that anyone who offers America basing rights is the enemy of what he calls the 'Associated' or 'United' Powers — China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Laos, and 'Miandan,' their puppet state in northern Myanmar.
"Finally, Russia has announced major aircraft and ordnance sales to China." Byrne paused. "Any questions?"
One of the generals lifted a hand. "Energy supplies?"
Excerpted from "Hunter Killer"
Copyright © 2017 David Poyer.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
II. The Hunt,
III. The Whetting of the Sword,
IV. Operation Recoil,
Previous Books by David Poyer,
About the Author,