Russia's new ballistic missile submarine, Yuriy Dolgorukiy, is being deployed on its first patrol while America's newest fast attack submarine, North Dakota, is assigned to trail it and collect intel. As the Russian submarine heads under the polar ice cap, its sonar readings reveal the trailing American sub and cause the Russians to begin a radical, evasive maneuver. This, however, fails and the submarines collide, resulting in damage that sends both to the bottom.
The Americans immediately set up a rescue mission, sending a new submarine and a SEAL team to establish an ice camp---Ice Station Nautilus---and stage a rescue. The Russians also send men and material, ostensibly to rescue their own men, but the Russian Special Forces team is also there to take the American base camp and the American sub, leaving no survivors or traces of their actions. As the men in North Dakota struggle to survive, the SEAL team battles for possession of the submarine.
Rick Campbell's Ice Station Nautilus is an epic battle above and below the ice, Special Forces against SEALs, submarine against submarine, with survival on the line.
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About the Author
Rick Campbell, a retired Navy Commander, spent more than twenty years on multiple submarine tours. On his last tour, he was one of the two men whose permission was required to launch the submarine's nuclear warhead-tipped missiles. Campbell is the author of The Trident Deception, Empire Rising and Ice Station Nautilus, and lives with his family in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
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Ice Station Nautilus
By Rick Campbell
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Rick Campbell
All rights reserved.
Andy Wheeler, seated at his desk inside the Atlantic Submarine Fleet's headquarters, worked his way down the inbox on his computer display. He took a sip of his morning coffee as he clicked through the emails, stopping to review the daily Naval intelligence report. In addition to the standard information, it contained something unexpected. Russia's new Borei class ballistic missile submarine was preparing for its first patrol.
He placed the coffee mug on his desk and opened the attachment of time-lapsed satellite photographs. A moment later, he called Commander Joe Ruscigno, seated at his desk at the back of the room.
"Look at these photos," Wheeler said as Ruscigno stopped behind him.
He cycled through the satellite images. Russia's first Borei class ballistic missile submarine, Yury Dolgoruky, had conducted a torpedo and supply loadout, then entered the missile handling facility.
"It's about time," Ruscigno said. "She's been delayed for years."
"We'll need to assign someone to shadow Dolgoruky during her patrol," Wheeler said. "Is Annapolis still on the northern run?"
"No, she just got relieved by North Dakota."
"Perfect. I'll draft a message while you brief the Admiral."
Wheeler pulled up the message template and entered the pertinent data. Yury Dolgoruky was about to embark on her maiden patrol.
North Dakota would be there to greet her.CHAPTER 2
Along the snow-covered shore of Yagelnaya Bay, a cold Arctic wind blew in from the Barents Sea as Captain First Rank Nicholai Stepanov emerged from the back of his black sedan. The icy wind bit into his exposed face, and he pressed the flaps of his ushanka fox-fur hat tighter against his ears. The month-and-a-half-long polar night had finally ended, and Stepanov welcomed the faint warmth of the early-morning sun, hovering in a clear-blue sky just above the snow-covered hills to the east.
Stepanov stood beside his car, taking in the scene. Tied up along the center pier of Gadzhiyevo Naval Base, its curving shoreline forming a semicircular bay, was the pride of the Russian fleet — K-535 Yury Dolgoruky, the Navy's first new ballistic missile submarine in seventeen years. The sun glinted off the sides of the 170-meter-long submarine, the ship's black hull trapped in a thin layer of coastal ice. Nearby, the nuclear-powered icebreaker Taymyr waited patiently for orders to clear a path to sea.
A second sedan pulled up and two Russian Admirals emerged. Stepanov saluted his superiors — Rear Admiral Shimko, commander of the 12th Submarine Squadron, and Admiral Lipovsky, commander of the Northern Fleet. The two Admirals returned Stepanov's salute, but no words were exchanged. Stepanov already knew Admiral Lipovsky desired to speak with him, in private, following this morning's ceremony.
Stepanov turned and strode onto the pier toward his submarine. The two Admirals joined him, their feet crunching through a fresh layer of snow deposited by the weekend storm. As the three men headed down the long pier, Stepanov's eyes went to a podium on the pier across from his submarine. The sides of the temporary ceremonial stand were draped in red, white, and blue striped bunting that matched the colors of the Russian Federation flag.
Yury Dolgoruky's crew was already assembled on the submarine's missile deck; 107 men — 55 officers and 52 enlisted — were standing in formation with the seven battle department commanders in front of their respective men. Stepanov's First Officer, Captain Second Rank Dmitri Pavlov, stood at the head of the formation. On the pier, in front of the podium and facing Yury Dolgoruky, were assembled the three submarine staffs under the purview of Rear Admiral Shimko — his own 12th Squadron staff, plus those of the 24th and 31st Submarine Divisions.
Stepanov and the two Admirals climbed the wooden stairs onto the platform, and Rear Admiral Shimko approached a lectern while Stepanov and Lipovsky settled into chairs behind him. Shimko greeted his staff and Stepanov's crew, and, after a short introduction, relinquished the lectern to Lipovsky. The Commander of the Northern Fleet stepped forward, studying Dolgoruky's crew before beginning his speech. As Lipovsky spoke, Stepanov's mind drifted. He had heard it all before. Yury Dolgoruky was a symbol of the Russian Navy's bright future, not unlike the sun climbing into the sky after the long polar night.
Like Gadzhiyevo, the Russian Navy had emerged from dark times. In the years that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the once proud Soviet Submarine Fleet had decayed, submarines rusting alongside their piers due to inadequate funding for even the most basic repairs. But the economy finally gained traction and the government had begun the task of rebuilding the Navy, committing to two new nuclear attack submarines per year, plus eight Borei class submarines to replace the aging Akyna, Kal'mar, and Delfin class submarines — called Typhoon, Delta III, and Delta IV by the West.
The rusting hulks had been towed to nearby Guba Sayda, a holding pen for submarines awaiting dismantling, or had already been scrapped at nearby shipyards. The submarines that remained at Gadzhiyevo Naval Base in addition to Yury Dolgoruky — six ballistic missile and a half-dozen nuclear attack submarines — were fully operational.
Yury Dolgoruky was also operational. Finally. It had slipped from its floating dock at the Sevmash shipyard into the White Sea six years ago, and the submarine and its new nuclear warhead–tipped ballistic missile, the Bulava, had been plagued with countless design and material issues. After a seemingly endless series of sea trials, shipyard repairs, and test missile firings, Yury Dolgoruky was finally ready to commence her first patrol.
After almost forty minutes, Admiral Lipovsky finished his speech and retreated from the lectern. It was Captain Stepanov's turn to inspire his crew. He approached the lectern, resting his hands along the edges as he surveyed his men. They had been standing in formation in the bitter cold for almost an hour, assembling topside twenty minutes before the two Admirals and their Captain arrived. Stepanov decided to keep his speech short.
"Station the underway watch."
He could see the faint smile on his First Officer's face as his second-in-command saluted crisply. Stepanov returned the salute, and Captain Second Rank Pavlov turned to address the battle department commanders. A moment later, the formation dissolved into a mass of men moving toward the submarine's three hatches. One by one, the men disappeared down the holes.
Rear Admiral Shimko wished Stepanov good luck, then headed down the pier with the three squadron staffs, leaving Admiral Lipovsky and Stepanov behind.
"Your stateroom," the Admiral said.
* * *
A few minutes later, the two men entered Stepanov's stateroom, a three-by-three-meter room containing only a narrow bed and a table seating two persons. Lipovsky closed the door, then settled into one of the chairs, motioning Stepanov into the other with a wave of his hand. The Admiral kept his coat and gloves on; their discussion would not take long.
"You are a man of few words," the Admiral said as Stepanov took his seat. "I should learn from you. I sometimes like to hear myself speak."
"The men appreciate your visit," Stepanov replied.
"And I appreciate your dedication," Lipovsky said. The Admiral fell silent, his eyes probing Stepanov until he finally spoke again.
"How many men know what Yury Dolgoruky carries?"
It was Stepanov's turn for silence, reviewing in his mind the images of the loadout three days ago in the missile handling facility.
"The entire crew knows," Stepanov replied. "Missile Division assisted with the loadout, and you cannot keep something like this a secret."
Lipovsky leaned forward. "You must keep it a secret. No one besides your crew and the personnel in the missile handling facility can know."
Stepanov nodded. "I have already spoken to my men. They know not to speak about this to others. Not even family members."
"Good," Lipovsky replied. "We cannot underestimate our peril if others learn of our deception. The Rodina itself would be at risk." Lipovsky paused before continuing, expressing his fear more distinctly. "The Americans cannot discover what you carry."CHAPTER 3
USS NORTH DAKOTA
Just off the coast of Russia's Kola Peninsula, USS North Dakota cruised at periscope depth, the top of its photonics mast sticking above the ocean's surface. Seated at the command workstation near the front of the Control Room, the submarine's Officer of the Deck, Lieutenant Scott Molitor, studied the left display on the dual-screen console, examining the image from the photonics mast as he rotated it clockwise with a tilt of the joystick. Molitor paused on each revolution to study Kola Bay to the south, the exit point for warships stationed in the Northern Fleet ports along the shores of the Murmansk Fjord, searching for their target of interest.
The latest INTEL message reported the Russian ballistic missile submarine was preparing for her first patrol. If things went as planned, North Dakota would accompany her.
Molitor had only one hour left on watch, but so far had nothing to show for his effort. After five hours of scrutinizing the shore and surrounding ocean, he had detected only a few merchant ships far out to sea. He commenced another sweep with the photonics mast, shifting to the low-power Wide-Field view with a push of a button on the joystick. He was thankful North Dakota had photonics masts instead of periscopes. He couldn't imagine going round and round on his feet for six hours straight, dancing with the Gray Lady — the senior officers' phrase for countless hours spent circling with one of the mechanical periscopes on older submarines.
As Molitor continued his clockwise rotation, the Sonar Supervisor, standing only a few feet away, spoke into his headset, his report coming across the speakers in Control.
"Conn, Sonar. Hold a new surface contact on the towed array, ambiguous bearings designated Sierra three-two and three- three, bearing one-nine-zero and one-one-zero. Analyzing."
North Dakota's towed array was a valuable asset, detecting contacts at longer ranges than the submarine's other acoustic sensors. However, the array was an assembly of hydrophones connected in a straight line, which meant it could not determine which side the sound arrived from, resulting in two potential bearings to the contact — one on each side of the array.
Molitor acknowledged and rotated the photonics mast to a bearing of one-one-zero, shifting to Narrow-Field view. There were no contacts. He swung to the south. As he examined Kola Bay, he spotted a small speck on the horizon. He called to the Electronic Surveillance Measures watch. "ESM, Conn. Report all radar contacts to the south."
"Conn, ESM. I hold no contacts to the south."
Molitor reached for the ICSAP handset and pressed the button on the touch-screen display for the Captain's stateroom. A few seconds later, Commander Paul Tolbert answered.
"Captain, Officer of the Deck. Hold a new surface contact, designated Sierra three-two, bearing one-nine-zero, exiting Kola Bay. Hold no navigation radar."
"Very well," the Captain replied. "I'll be right there."
Commander Tolbert entered the Control Room a moment later, his arrival announced by the Quartermaster. "Captain in Control."
* * *
Commander Paul Tolbert stopped behind the command workstation, examining both displays over the shoulder of his junior officer. Molitor had resumed his visual search routine, and the photonics mast was rotating slowly clockwise.
"Show me what you've got," Tolbert directed.
Molitor swung the photonics mast to a bearing of one-nine-zero, then shifted to Narrow-Field view. The speck on the horizon was larger now, but was still difficult to classify. It was hull-down — only the top of the distant ship was visible due to the curvature of the earth. All Tolbert could see was the contact's boxy superstructure. Since it was transiting through coastal ice, it had to be an icebreaker. Breaking the ice for what?
Tolbert ordered, "Take an observation using the laser range-finder."
Lieutenant Molitor repeated back the order, then pressed a soft key on his command workstation, activating the laser range-finder on North Dakota's photonics mast.
Molitor called out, "Prepare for observation, Victor one, Number One mast."
One of the two fire control technicians manning the starboard consoles reported, "Ready."
Molitor aligned the photonics mast to the contact, then announced, "Bearing, mark," and squeezed the trigger on the joystick.
The fire control technician called out, "Bearing one-nine-zero, range ten thousand yards." Lieutenant Molitor added, "Angle on the bow, zero."
If the icebreaker was clearing a path for a warship, Tolbert now knew its range. It would trail close behind the icebreaker, traversing the clear water before ice chunks floated back into the open channel. However, the icebreaker's large superstructure blocked North Dakota's view, making the detection of a ship behind it impossible. They needed to move off the icebreaker's track so they could see behind it. Tolbert decided to turn perpendicular to the icebreaker's course.
"Come to course zero-nine-zero."
The Pilot tapped in the ordered course, and as North Dakota turned to port, Tolbert suppressed an involuntary shudder. It had taken a while to get used to the Virginia class design. Although he was now comfortable with a Control Room containing sonarmen but no periscopes, and calling the Helm a Pilot, he still got the willies from normal course and depth changes.
On older submarines, the Officer of the Deck would give a rudder order when changing course more than ten degrees, and when changing depth, the Diving Officer would order a specific up or down angle for the boat. On Virginia class submarines, however, "the ship" made those decisions. The Officer of the Deck would order a new course or depth and the Pilot would enter it into the Ship Control Station, and the ship's computer would automatically adjust the submarine's rudder, bow, and stern planes to the optimal angles. If desired, manual control could be taken by ordering a specific rudder or ship angle. But it was normally a "hands-off' operation.
North Dakota steadied on the ordered course and the ship's computer returned the rudder amidships. They were at periscope depth traveling at only five knots, and Tolbert's submarine moved slowly off the icebreaker's track. Tolbert and Molitor studied the photonics display, searching behind the icebreaker. Slowly, a black rectangle appeared — a submarine sail.
"Sonar, Conn," Molitor called out. "Hold an outbound submarine behind Sierra three-two. Report additional contacts in vicinity of Sierra three-two."
"Conn, Sonar," the Sonar Supervisor replied. "The only thing we hold is Sierra three-two. It's masking anything behind it."
Tolbert studied the submarine's sail. Based on its size and shape, he discarded one submarine class and then another, leaving only one. Yury Dolgoruky was headed to sea.
Plumes of water spray jetted into the air from the submarine's bow and stern. It was diving, venting the air in its main ballast tanks.
Tolbert turned to his Officer of the Deck. "Come down to one-five-zero feet and increase speed to ahead two-thirds. Station the Fire Control Tracking Party."
* * *
Three minutes later, North Dakota was at 150 feet and ten knots, the photonics mast lowered. Every console in the Control Room was manned, with supervisors standing behind the men at their workstations. The submarine's Navigator had relieved Lieutenant Molitor as Officer of the Deck, and Molitor now occupied a console on the starboard side, one of three workstations configured to determine the contact's solution — its course, speed, and range.
Tolbert assumed the Conn, leaving the Navigator with responsibility for the Deck — handling routine evolutions and monitoring the navigation picture, ensuring North Dakota stayed clear of dangerous shoal water. Tolbert stopped behind Molitor and examined the geographic plot on the upper display of his dual-screen workstation. It contained a map of the southern Barents Sea, with North Dakota in the center and the Kola Peninsula and Kildin Island to the south. Sonar hadn't detected Yury Dolgoruky yet; it was still being masked by the icebreaker.
Finally, the Sonar Supervisor's report came across the speakers. "Conn, Sonar. Gained a fifty-Hertz tonal on the towed array, designated Sierra three-four and three-five, bearing zero-eight-zero and one-seven-zero. Analyzing."
Excerpted from Ice Station Nautilus by Rick Campbell. Copyright © 2016 Rick Campbell. 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.
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Table of Contents
Prologue: USS Michigan — Barents Sea,
Twelve Days Earlier,
1. Norfolk, Virginia,
2. Gadzhiyevo, Russia,
3. USS North Dakota,
4. Barents Sea,
5. Moscow, Russia,
6. Barents Sea,
7. Marginal Ice Zone,
8. Washington, D.C.,
9. Arctic Ocean,
10. USS North Dakota K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
11. USS North Dakota,
12. K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
13. Suitland Park, Maryland,
14. K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
15. USS North Dakota,
16. Norfolk, Virginia,
17. North Island, California,
18. Point Loma, California,
19. Washington, D.C.,
20. USS Michigan,
22. St. Petersburg, Russia,
24. St. Petersburg, Russia,
25. K-329 Severodvinsk,
26. USS Michigan,
27. Arctic Ocean,
28. Severomorsk, Russia,
29. Gadzhiyevo, Russia,
30. Pechenga, Russia,
31. USS North Dakota,
32. K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
33. Ice Camp Nautilus,
34. USS North Dakota,
35. USS North Dakota,
36. K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
37. USS North Dakota,
38. Ice Camp Nautilus,
39. St. Petersburg, Russia,
40. Murmansk, Russia,
41. USS Michigan,
42. K-329 Severodvinsk,
43. K-157 Vepr,
44. Pechenga, Russia,
45. Ice Station Nautilus,
46. USS North Dakota,
47. Washington, D.C.,
48. Ice Camp Barneo,
49. Svalbard, Norway,
50. Ice Station Nautilus,
51. USS Michigan,
52. K-157 Vepr,
53. K-329 Severodvinsk,
54. K-157 Vepr,
55. Ice Station Nautilus,
56. Ice Camp Barneo,
57. Ice Station Nautilus,
58. Ice Camp Barneo,
59. USS North Dakota,
60. K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
61. Ice Camp Barneo Ice Station Nautilus,
62. USS North Dakota Ice Station Nautilus,
63. Ice Station Nautilus,
64. USS North Dakota,
65. Ice Station Nautilus,
66. USS Michigan,
67. K-157 Vepr,
68. USS Michigan K-157 Vepr,
69. Ice Station Nautilus,
70. USS Michigan K-157 Vepr,
71. Ice Station Nautilus,
72. USS Michigan,
73. Ice Station Nautilus,
74. K-157 Vepr USS Michigan,
75. Ice Station Nautilus,
76. K-157 Vepr,
77. USS Michigan,
78. Ice Station Nautilus,
79. K-157 Vepr USS Michigan,
80. Ice Station Nautilus,
81. USS Michigan,
82. Ice Station Nautilus,
83. Ice Station Nautilus,
84. PRM-1 Falcon USS North Dakota,
85. USS North Dakota,
86. Ice Station Nautilus,
87. K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
88. Washington, D.C. Moscow,
89. Ice Station Nautilus,
90. St. Petersburg, Russia,
91. K-329 Severodvinsk,
92. PRM-1 Falcon,
93. K-329 Severodvinsk USS Michigan,
94. K-329 Severodvinsk K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
95. USS Michigan K-329 Severodvinsk,
96. K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
97. K-329 Severodvinsk USS Michigan,
98. USS North Dakota K-329 Severodvinsk,
99. USS Michigan,
100. K-535 Yury Dolgoruky,
101. Barents Sea,
102. Washington, D.C.,
103. Ice Station Nautilus,
106. USS Michigan,
Epilogue: Arlington, Virginia,
Complete Cast of Characters,
Also by Rick Campbell,
About the Author,