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Literature / The Sixth Battle

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1992 novel by Barrett Tillmann, an American historian who had earlier wrote Warriors (about a Middle East air war) and co-authored a history of carrier aviation in The Vietnam War.

Arguably the first Make the Bear Angry Again novel, the story involves a war fought between South Africa and its neighbouring states with aid from the Union of Eurasian Republics, a somewhat reconstituted USSR.

Focussing on the crew of a fictional Forrestal-class carrier, USS Langley as it takes part in the war, it's an astonishing well-researched book. Langley must survive against five Eurasian carriers. It's actually sunk, but the surviving air wing gets to land before it happens, where they help force a stalemate.

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This book contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Quite a few on both sides, amongst bomber, fighter, and helicopter drivers. The best are probably F-14 Tomcat pilot and RIO Ozzie and Fido.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Thoroughly averted as Langley's outnumbered escorts run out of missiles after stopping several Russian air strikes against the Battle Group. Unfortunately, the AEGIS VLS systems that allow cruisers and destroyers to engages dozens of air targets with antiair missiles simultaneously also happen to be ridiculously difficult to reload at sea. One by one, they run out of long-range SM-2 missiles, then medium-range RIM-7 Sea Sparrows, then close-range Rolling Airframe Missiles and 20mm ammo for the CIWS guns. Then...
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: The guided-missile frigate USS Meyring takes a Russian heavy torpedo for Langley. Meyring is torn in half, blown completely out of the water, and lost with all hands. Then the Russian sub reloads and puts two more into the carrier.
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  • Insane Admiral: Subverted. Admiral "Hub" Fernandez, Chief of Naval Operations under President Callaway, likes to affect this image, especially with Democrat members of Congress. He is legendary for his actions in Beirut in 1983, where his carrier battle group arrived after the Marine Barracks bombing, only to be ordered not to fly any air strikes. Fernandez declared that he’d be "damned if I’m gonna bring ten billion dollars' worth of hardware and ten thousand people halfway around the world to this shithole and not kill somebody!" He ten took two Marines ashore with some small arms and grenades and went hunting Hezbollah. He is actually pretty level-headed (albeit hawkish), even talking the enraged president down when he’s considering escalating the war.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Otherwise known as modern air and naval combat.
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  • Make the Bear Angry Again: The Russian Federation collapses after less than a year and is replaced by the UER, which incorporates most of the former USSR bar the Baltic republics and Moldova. How they manage to recover from economic and political collapse—as well as create five functional fleet carriers and their air groups—in less than a year is...rather less explained.
  • Moral Dissonance: The Eurasian pilots are fighting against a racist regime, but happily use racial epithets in their internal thoughts.
  • Operation: [Blank]: Operation Evil Hyphen.
  • Reporting Names: A bit of an odd one, this. Tillman uses some older believed designations for some aircraft, but also had access to some actual weapon names as they were being revealed due to the collapse of the USSR.
  • Shout-Out / Crossover: One character is stated to be the brother of John Gresham, an F-16 pilot from Larry Bond's Red Phoenix.
  • Shown Their Work: Tillman includes missile failure rates into his battle. That's not missiles missing, that's missiles plain not working in the first place.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Admiral Rybakov is a grandmaster-level Chess player.
  • Take That!: The attack on the Comrade Jane Fonda Antiaircraft Battalion, solely conducted on that target because of its name.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: 1993 to be exact.
  • Villain Protagonist: Dirk Vorster, a pro-Apartheid Boer nationalist and flamboyant racist, is introduced as one of the perpetrators of a terrorist attack that kills Nelson Mandela, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and F. W. De Klerk. He gets arrested, but is recalled to active duty with the SADF to fight the invasion before the investigation can go very far. He gets his in the end, though, losing a gunfight with a pro-Marxist Xhosa terrorist.

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