John Schettler’s Kirov Series heads out into the Deep Blue
Series fans have been eagerly awaiting next installment of the saga, and even the title was not known until just
a few days before release. As always, the web site puts up the cover, and here we are, hip deep in World War Three.
In this expanded retelling of the events that started
that war, we have all just seen real life imitating fiction with the recent tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman. Let us hope the ballistic missiles don’t soon follow. That was but one of the
many action scenes presented in this marathon depiction of the war. Focusing primarily on the naval and related air combat, we’ve seen fighting in the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Denmark Strait,
Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean, and all the seas bordering China. Some of the small unit actions, with Argos Fire and the Fairchild Group providing our point of view, were among the most interesting. In them we saw how a few competent naval task forces could deal with the so called “String of Pearls” China has been building with bases through the Indian Ocean. Now, in Deep Blue, the fighting is much closer to home.
The story takes up right where it left off in Resurgent, with Fedorov rushing into the ready room to tell Karpov what has happened. Hints of the
odd effects related to time shifts, and missing crewmen cast a shadow over their plans earlier, and now the looming presence of an event series readers know is coming will soon have a major impact on
action in this volume--the Demon Volcano.
With a charge given to him directly by Tyrenkov, Karpov is ordered to go out and sink another carrier, and he seldom disappoints. How that
might happen is part of the twist in this offering, something that the author often does at the heart of each new season. After the sharp naval action in the Yellow Sea, China now exerts more
pressure by lighting the fuse in Korea, creating another major crisis point for the United States to contend with. The American answer is Operation Urgent Fire, a fast sealift of the 25th Infantry Division to Japan, for eventual deployment to Korea.
After giving us a taste of the ground war when Kim’s warriors cross the DMZ, the action shifts to Kirov and the Russian Pacific Fleet, as Karpov sets out into the Deep Blue again, looking for that carrier to notch his belt. He finds a good deal more than he expected, and we get a fitting glimpse of the future he and Fedorov helped shape with their many interventions in the last war. You may be surprised to learn how that all turned out, and the tremendous implications a few tweaks in the history had on the situation in the Pacific.
Thus far the series has taken an in-depth look at the naval war, and we have seen both the strengths and shortcomings of each side. China’s burgeoning shipbuilding is surging ahead, but they lack strong carrier based forces that can bring significant air power, and strike capability, out into the Deep Blue. That has been the realm where the United states had reigned unchallenged for the last 80 years, largely because of their expert ability to deploy aircraft carriers. Those air wings have ruled the skies over the seas since the 1940’s, and it is no different here.
On the other hand, we also see that this war has caught the US in a kind of twilight zone between the last 30 years and the war they have to fight now, where its navy largely operated to project power ashore with air strikes and cruise missiles. Little emphasis was placed on surface warfare, and now the USN faces down a strong peer competitor in the Chinese Navy. With Chinese destroyers that can fire anti-ship missiles with three and four times the range of the old US Harpoons, American destroyers seem to be viable only as an integral part of a US carrier task force. In effect, the US can’t really go toe to toe with the Chinese fleet without a carrier present, which is why the early loss of both Eisenhower and Carl Vinson were such heavy blows to the navy. Now here comes Vladimir Karpov, the next pretender to the throne. He soon learns that the Americans might have made a better friend than an enemy.
The Chinese solution is to find strength in numbers, and mass their fleet to face the Americans, advancing in a phalanx of destroyers and frigates, with the few carriers they have. Supported by their considerable land based air power, China has been able to control the green waters of the East and South China seas, but the Deep Blue is still dominated by the US. China began the war with 45 large surface warships, from the type 051B destroyer north to their newer type 055 fleet additions. That new destroyer has proved highly effective, but by 2021, there are only six still available. In action thus far, they have lost 15 destroyers, fully a third of their heavy naval assets. This has prevented them from fully isolating Taiwan and Japan, and forced them back to their littoral waters, and now the US wolf is finally at the door when the DF-21D’s run out.
On the US side, the 7th Fleet was badly outnumbered at the outbreak of the war, but it got strong support from the Japanese and South Korean navies, until reinforcements could arrive from the 3rd Fleet. The US strategy now is to use adroit carrier tactics and sea based air power, brave the DF-21D zone, and then bring the missiles. The only problem is that the author has tracked down actual inventory numbers on weapons that would really be available to both sides. A good many articles hype the latest arrows in the US quiver, notably the LRASM, and the Multi-Mission Tomahawk, which can strike both land and sea targets. You may be surprised to learn how many will actually exist by 2021, including the much lauded new US Standard Missile-6.
Meanwhile, the reinforced Russian Pacific Fleet keeps getting smaller as losses reduce the number of ships available for operations. Both Karpov and Fedorov can see the futility of trying to win the war through force of arms, yet always the warrior, Karpov remains ever confident in his abilities.
On the other hand, Ex-Navigator and now Starpom (XO) of the mighty Kirov has been conflicted throughout the series, and haunted, by images of a devastated future world they saw during an odd forward shift in book one. Preferring to use his words rather than missiles, it is no surprise that he argues for a way to find a negotiated settlement to the war before things get out of hand. The only man who could initiate those talks is Tyrenkov, Karpov’s ex-Chief of security and intelligence, but the cagey spymaster doesn’t see the same future as Fedorov, which leads to some dissension and turmoil before this book ends.
All in all, the war is grinding forward into real dangerous territory, both on land and at sea. China reinforces Korea to offset US reinforcements, and in Europe NATO has completed its mobilization and is getting ready for a major counteroffensive against the Russians. It is there that we will most likely learn the fate of two other time traveling characters that led modern day forces into the cauldron of WWII--Brigadiers Kinlan and Berg.
As this one ends, action on the macro and micro scales ratchets the tension up another few notches, setting the stage for the next volume, where every side in this war presses for advantage while skirting the dangerous line of escalation that could lead to the conflagration Fedorov fears.
Head out into the Deep Blue to catch all the action, as volume 5 in the season goes on sale June 20.