November 30, 2005
Halfway around the world, while the Venetian Star made her way down the Yemeni coast and the USS Seawolf was silently stalking the Yunes, Hugo Martez had finally, after months of negotiations, signed to take ownership of a little house in south Plantation, a city just west of Fort Lauderdale. He called Congressman Holland immediately.
The house was a waterfront home, a canal that led directly to the Intracoastal Waterway, which in turn led out to the Atlantic Ocean—or up and down the coasts of South Florida. Exactly what his old college roommate had asked for. The truck he bought was inconspicuous enough—a blue 1998 Chevy Silverado 2500 extended cab long bed. While it sounded big—and it was—it would not stick out at all in the city. South Floridians were a weird group, an odd mix of city mouse and country mouse. At any given time in any of the three counties that make up South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach) you could see a brand-new Lexus driving along side a 13-year-old truck or even worse, a 25-year-old hunk of metal that deserved to be in a junkyard, not on the highway.
What's worse, is that once you leave the big city limits of Fort Lauderdale, you end up in a much more relaxed area, more of a country suburb than a bustling hub. The farther west you went in Broward County, the more "country" it became, even though the populations remained extremely diverse.
Martez knew the truck would not be suspicious to anybody, nor would it be out-of-place sitting in the driveway of the new house he just bought. Tonight he would make a call to his team in Hialeah, not more than twenty minutes south of him in Miami-Dade County, and have them prepare to move in. He guessed they had around a month, probably less, before the people he was waiting for would arrive.
Same day, 11:30 a.m. (Local)
Commander Allen Tomsey was furious when the report came in that the Seawolf had the Kilo. He wanted the kill, wanted to get some kind of revenge for his ship, wanted to make up for their near-miss earlier. He had the Cole moving at flank speed out of the operations area—with permission—towards the location of the Seawolf and the Kilo. "I'll be damned if some sub driver is going to get my kill," he growled.
Tomsey never liked submarines or sub drivers. How could you? They worked in silence, underwater, hidden from everything. They were mercenaries, not sailors—you could not "sail" a submarine. "Hell, you can't even trust the damn things! I don't trust anything I can't see," he once told his sailors. Likewise, submariners weren't too fond of surface ships either. They regarded each other as the enemy of my enemy, but if push came to shove, submariners would rather the entire Navy be submarines, and surface commanders would rather there be no submarines at all.
The two LAMPS III Seahawks were being fueled and ready to go as the Cole closed to within 2000 yards of the two submarines. "Helm, slow us down, speed five," called Tomsey.
"Speed five, aye captain."
The sailors aboard Cole felt the ship beneath them slow as the guided missile destroyer stopped its tear through the Arabian Sea. Tomsey's torpedo tubes were still loaded. He flipped the 1MC on and ordered the ship, for the second time in two days, to man battle stations.
Almost 800 feet below the surface, the Seawolf pushed on, barely above four knots, sitting quietly in the baffles of the Kilo Yunes. The little Iranian attack submarine was clueless that they were being followed, but were keenly aware of the guided missile destroyer not far from them. What worried the executive officer the most was that the destroyer came screaming through the water and then suddenly slowed. Could it be that he had been located already?
"Load tubes one through four, do not flood them and do not open the outer doors," he called out. His order was repeated and sent to the torpedo room. The surface ship hadn't fired, hadn't launched the dangerous LAMPS III helicopters, hadn't even gone active. There was a great chance the destroyer was merely moving into a new area and had no idea of the whereabouts of the Kilo.
"Tubes loaded sir," called out a petty officer.
"Get me a firing solution on the American destroyer, and flood tubes one through four."
"Conn-Sonar, she's flooding four torpedo tubes."
Captain Milbank nodded, then flipped open a channel on his wireless headset to the torpedo room. The Seawolf was truly state-of-the-art. "Torpedo room, make tubes one through four ready in all respects, but do not open the outer doors. Firing point procedures boys." It was obvious this sub was not going to be meeting up with any boats today, which was the only reason he left the sub go this long. The possibility that the sub might bring them to the boat they were supposed to transfer the warhead to was too great to destroy the Kilo right about. He had let her live for almost two and a half hours. Too long as far as Milbank was concerned.
"Aye captain," they replied.
"Do we have a firing solution on the American destroyer?" asked the XO.
"Good. Now we wait."
The Kilo continued on, closing the distance between the Cole to within 800 yards.
"Get me a firing solution on Tango Niner-Five," called out Milbank.
The sonar room set to work locking on to the Yunes. It did not take long. "We're locked in sir."
"Rig ship for battle stations torpedo, prepare to fire."
The USS Seawolf was covered in red light as she prepared to strike at her prey.
Tomsey stared out at the water, the noon sun shimmering off the surface. He sat in his high leather chair, waiting for the sonar room to announce they had found the Kilo. Seconds ticked by, the commander becoming more and more impatient.
Damn the Russians and their little diesel electric piece-of-shit submarine! The thing was "a fucking hole in the water!" growled Tomsey.
"Open tubes one through four," called out Milbank.
In the torpedo room, a torpedoman pressed a button marked "T1" and waited for a red light next to it go green. He did the same for the buttons marked "T2," "T3," and "T4."
The "doors" were the last barrier for the torpedoes. A small hydraulic mechanism would fire to slide the doors into specially designed slots and allow for an unobstructed path of the lethal Gould Mark 48 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) wire-guided torpedo.
However, what the Seawolf crew did not know was when she pulled out of Norfolk, Virginia four months ago, she had a hidden circuitry problem regarding the torpedo tubes. While the doors did work, it was only a matter before the circuit would blow—which is exactly what happened.
Tube One's door made a loud, horrific steel grinding sound before only opening a quarter of the way. The men in the torpedo room froze, the light next to "T1" began blinking red."
"Torpedo room—Conn, what the hell is that?!" shouted Milbank.
"Conn, we have a problem with Tube One sir. It's stuck."
The sound continued, the door trying to slide open, minus a major circuit.
"Shut it down!"
"Aye captain!" Seconds later, the sound stopped.
"Damnit!" yelled Milbank. Sound was a submariner's worst enemy, and as Milbank put it, "We just dropped our pants!"
You had to be deaf not to hear the Seawolf's malfunction. "American submarine!" screamed the sonarmen in unison.
The XO went white as a ghost. "An American? Where?"
"Four hundred yards dead astern! Seawolf class!"
"Left full rudder, planes down twenty degrees! Speed eight knots!" shouted the XO. "Sonar, lock on the American submarine!"
"Captain, we have her! She just accelerated and is preparing to dive. And it sounds like Seawolf is having a problem with one of her torpedo tube doors, sir."
"All ahead, fifteen knots!" He called down to his anti-submarine warfare room. "Lock on to that bastard!"
"Already ahead of you skipper! Give us forty-five seconds and we'll have her!"
Damn submarines! They hunt her for hours and then blow it! thought Tomsey.
"Tango Niner-Five is diving to port, sir," came the call from the sonar room.
"Torpedo room, what's the status on the other doors?" asked the captain.
"Overriding the system as we speak. When Tube One went down, she scrambled the system on the other seven tubes. We're overriding the system to manually open the others."
"How much longer?"
"Shit," mumbled Milbank.
"We have the American locked in."
"Fire tube one, tube two!" yelled the XO.
Two loud thumps were heard as the 533mm torpedoes were fired with compressed air and screamed through the water.
"CONN—SONAR, FISH IN THE WATER! BEARING TWO-THREE-ONE AND TWO-THREE-FIVE RESPECTIVELY! THREE EIGHT ZERO YARDS AND CLOSING!"
"Dive to five hundred feet, planes twenty degrees, make our speed ten, right full rudder! Chief of the boat, prepare to release countermeasures, rig ship for impact!" called out Milbank.
The torpedo room called in as soon as the orders were completed. "Tubes two through four are open!"
"Snapshot two and three!" he called out. The Mark 48 ADCAP's had the ability of being fired and guided to the target either by following the pre-loaded firing solution or by a thin, fiber optic wire that streamed out of the torpedo, still connected to the sub. The torpedomen could guide the torpedo exactly where they wanted it to go. A snapshot, however, merely fired the torpedo and allowed it to track its target with the coordinates programmed it, but with no updated information. It was merely a "fire and forget" move, more out of desperation in an attempt to get the enemy to focus on the torpedos and give the Seawolf time to maneuver out of the way.
Two thumps echoed through the sub as the two Mark 48 ADCAPs were launched. "Tubes two and three launched electrically!" a torpedoman called out.
The Seawolf began a sharp, hard right turn, causing pots and pans in the galley to fall over, as well as anything not secured on a table. Her planes moved down and the American nuclear submarine drove hard towards the bottom of the ocean.
"We're locked on the Kilo, sir."
"Fire tubes one and two!" Tomsey ordered.
Two Honeywell Mark 46 torpedoes were launched from two three-tube mounts. They splashed into the water and immediately began to dive towards the Kilo. "Make sure they don't lock on the Seawolf!"
"Where're the fish, sonar?"
"One five zero yards, closing fast! Now bearing two-three-three and two-three-seven! Cole's fish are on their way towards Tango Niner-Five, as well as ours!"
"Chief of the boat, release countermeasures! Make our depth three hundred feet, planes up fifteen degrees, make speed eight knots!" Milbank shouted. He opened the 1MC. "Brace for impact!"
The Seawolf, after making a hard, ninety degree turn down and to the right, now began a push forward and towards the surface, aiming to go up two hundred feet—the same two hundred feet it had just cover on the dive. General Dynamics and Newport News Shipbuilding, the creators of the Seawolf, made the sub capable of making turns similar to that of a fiberglass "cigarette" boat. It only added to the lethality of the hunter/killer submarine.
Two cylinders were ejected out of the sub and began to emit a series of sounds that were much louder than that of the Seawolf. The countermeasures were meant to draw the torpedoes away from the sub and into the open ocean, hopefully
It drew one of them. The torpedo on track two-three-seven suddenly diverted and took a hard turn towards the countermeasures, exploding as it blasted one of the cylinders.
"Down one fish!"
"Release countermeasures! Dive to five hundred feet, planes down fifty degrees!"
"Do it!" screamed the XO.
The Kilo tilted almost on her nose and headed down into the ocean depths. Things around the ship began to fly forward, in one instance a chef was knocked unconscious when a can of peas connected with his head at a high velocity.
The Seawolf's snapshots soared past the Kilo's propeller and went searching to reacquire their target. They dove deep, at speeds far faster than the Kilo, and plowed into the seabed.
Cole's torpedoes were less than seventy yards from the Yunes as she dove deep. The countermeasures lured one away, but the other was aimed right at the Kilo's screw.
"Full speed!" screamed the now-commander of the Kilo.
"Torpedo closing fast! Twenty yards!"
"Right rudder full!" came the XO's order.
The Yunes made a violent turn to the right, still diving. The second Cole torpedo made the turn too late, her computer not adjusting quick enough as it closed to within five yards other Kilo's propeller. It shorted out and sank like a rock to the bottom of the ocean.
The Yunes continued her dive and slipped beneath the thermocline, an area of water that separated warm water from cold water; it also played havoc on sonar. "Slow to four knots!"
The Kilo was practically dead in the water—invisible to the two American ships who had taken shots at her.
"Missed her sir. She's gone below the thermocline, off our sonar," was the report up to the bridge.
"Conn—Sonar, torpedo bearing two-three-three still closing, now eighty yards!"
"Dive below the thermocline and load tubes five through eight!"
The Seawolf tilted back down and headed for the temperature layer, hopefully before the last Kilo torpedo could smash into his propeller. Some sailors aboard began to vomit, the motion of the submarine causing mayhem with their stomachs.
The Seawolf pushed forward as the torpedo closed fast. Her nose slipped below the thermocline , followed by her sail, and finally her fin.
"Passing the thermocline, sir," called out the chief of the boat.
The torpedo headed right into the thermocline, hit the layer, became confused, and self-destructed.
"Level her out! Slow to five knots. Tango's still there out," ordered Milbanks. The nuclear hunter/killer straightened out, exactly six hundred yards from the Yunes, though neither knew it.
Both submarines remained below the thermocline, heading into rocky terrain. The Kilo began to slowly rise up, avoiding the jutting rocks and coming above the thermocline. The USS Seawolf did the same.
The Cole picked her up first, but did not react. Tomsey was afraid of hitting the Seawolf, who he could not locate on the sonar. Cursing submariners for the umpteenth time that day, he tracked the Kilo for a second time, not getting to destroy her.
Seawolf finished the switch from the lower temperature layer and picked up the Kilo, running at five and half knots. Her signature was so faint the computer almost bypassed it, but the sonar operators, some of the best in the US Navy, heard it and locked back on Tango Niner-Five.
"She know we're in the area?" asked Milbanks.
"No sir, doesn't look like it."
The door on Tube One had been closed as they evaded one of the torpedoes, and the last four of the eight tubes on the American submarine had been loaded and flooded. The Seawolf was back on the hunt.
"Make speed seven, rudder left five degrees," ordered the captain.
"Sonar, lock on Tango Niner-Five ASAP."
"Ahead of you captain, we have a solution for her," replied the sonar room.
"Firing point procedures."
The Seawolf stalked its prey carefully, turning left and sliding in behind the Kilo, exactly in the place it was before the torpedo tube incident. Once again, the predator prepared to strike.
"Fire tubes five and six, open the outer doors on seven and eight," commanded Milbank.
"Firing tubes five and six, opening the outer doors on seven and eight, aye sir," repeated the XO.
Two more thumps sounded through the Seawolf.
"Tubes five and six fired electrically sir."
The Mark 48 ADCAPs sped towards their target. Yunes had no chance to evade this time, though she tried. The Kilo again turned hard to the left, but the Seawolf wasn't going to miss this time. The two torpedo controllers guided the Mark 48s at the Kilo, smashing one into her propeller and the other into the underbelly of submarine, crippling her.
The ballast tanks aboard the Kilo was cracked, water began to leak into the sub. Towards the stern, the propulsion was mangled, the diesel-electric engine still trying to turn. The battery began to short, and the diesel engine came on immediately, but they were nowhere near the surface. Without the snorkel extended, the toxic smoke had nowhere to go but around the ship.
Luckily for the Iranians, the engine, suffering from the same problem as the battery, began to strain under the pressure of not turning the propeller. However, unlike the batter, the engine overheated and finally exploded, punching a hole the size of a basketball into the hull. That was all it took.
The water poured forth and blasted its way towards the bow. Sailors tried to close hatches, but the water rushed forward with the force of ten elephants, and the XO merely watched as the water blasted him against the helm, crushing his body and killing him instantly. The Kilo began to sink slowly to the bottom of the Arabian Sea.
On the surface, Tomsey cursed sub drivers again. The USS Cole would need to wait to get her revenge.
As the battle to sink the Yunes went on, the Venetian Star headed southwest along the coast of Yemen, towards Somalia. The ship was give the update on the death of the Iranian sub via an e-mail encrypted through the Chinese weather satellite and an Al-Jazeera transmission. Rasheed brought his commander the news.
"They sank her."
Aziz nodded. "How did Bandar Abbas find out?"
"Yunes missed her check-in."
"How many times?"
Aziz nodded once more, then looked out at the ocean ahead of them. "Good. Things are going as planned then. Hopefully the Americans believe they've sunk the warhead with the sub. Things should be smooth sailing for us from now on."
The Star passed the city of Aden an hour later, continuing to run along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula. They dropped anchor just 20 miles west southwest of Aden and had a small dinner of potatoes and chicken, and drank apple juice to wash it down—Allah forbid the drinking of alcohol.
The former special forces commander ran his unit as if they were still active, and at five in the morning the ship was heading west southwest again, heading towards the small African country of Djibouti. The Venetian Star made excellent time, her improved engines driving the 98-foot Leonardo across the Gulf of Aden, pulling into the port of the capital of Djibouti, Djibouti City, for food and fuel. That night dinner consisted of freshly caught fish, broccoli, and rice with fruit juice. Before they ate, however, Aziz led the men on a five mile run, followed by an intense exercise routine. His men would not become complacent or lazy. Especially for what lay ahead of them.