John Schettler’s Kirov Series Surges into WWIII
The final season of the Kirov Series surges ahead into volume two, Kill Chain. As this segment of the story has been underway at John’s writing desk for
some time, these volumes will be coming out sooner, on a more accelerated publication schedule. This release comes just 30 days after the season opener, Homecoming, and the action set up at
the end of that book now erupts here as “the Battle of the Denmark Strait.” The title of the book is derived from the military term Kill-Chain, as the author quotes from Wikipedia,
“…originally used as a military concept related to the structure of an attack; consisting of target identification, force dispatch to target, decision and order to attack the target, and
finally the destruction of the target.”
Here the incident that was sparked on Naval Day when the Ambush fired on Kirov in the Norwegian Sea develops like a bad storm. The Russian Northern Fleet has sortied to join Papa Volsky at sea, and he soon receives orders to move to the Denmark Strait. A reluctant warrior, Volsky is soon troubled by more than his orders. The same debilitating vertigo attack that felled him in the opening volume of the series happens here as before, which leaves Karpov in control of the ship at this crucial time.
Now Karpov must face down not one, but two US Carrier Strike Groups that have surged to close off the G.I.U.K. Gap. Meanwhile, beneath the seas, the Russian submarine Belgorod is attempting to slip through the Denmark Strait, with a maw filled with doomsday torpedoes. Everything that made this series so great is here as we enter this final season, which is strongly centered on Kirov,
and all the main characters the series veterans have come to know and love. Karpov and Fedorov have managed to prevent the ship from shifting to the past, but now they find themselves in the broiling
waters of an emerging third world war.
That’s the action this final season will be presenting, and in the same loving detail as with the many battles of WWII shown in
earlier volumes. It will be the next war, as the author sees it coming, and he is carefully projecting what assets, in the air and on or under the seas, each side will have by late 2021. Yet as
always, there’s a welcome twist here, and one that just throws in the question at the heart of any wargame: “What if?”
We saw that in the main series, when
the author asked any number of questions during his long alternate history of WWII—What if the German Plan Z ships had been built, and the Graf Zeppelin? What if the Germans had taken
control of the French fleet in 1941? What if Germany had invaded Spain, seized Gibraltar and the Canary Islands, and initiated Hitler’s “Plan Orient,” which became Operations Condor and Phoenix in John’s tale. Here we get some of the same educated speculation. What if the Russian naval building program had been stronger, and they had been able to upgrade and refit more of their aging ships?
We have already seen Karpov and Fedorov discover that, instead of a single viable battlecruiser, this Russian navy still has all four of its Kirov Class ships, and with deadly new sensors and weapons like the hypersonic Zircon, the stealthy Onyx, and the long range Kalibr cruise missile that was Russia’s answer to the American Tomahawk. There will be more changes in the Russian order of battle, things that even surprise Karpov and Fedorov when they are discovered, just as they are shocked to learn that the man they had been stalking in the past, Tyrenkov, has also appeared here, and at the very top of the food chain!
Volume two of this season now focuses heavily on the naval action in the Denmark Strait, and the Russian Operation Blizzard aimed at securing the North Cape of Norway. They are both a part of the overall struggle for control of the Norwegian Sea, as NATO’s principle backer, the United States, strains to move reinforcements into the North Atlantic. In all of this, the author has gone so far as to count heads on missile procurement dating from 2017 and forward through 2021, finding out exactly how many were purchased and on order, and how many might be delivered. All in all, it paints a chilling wash of realism over the speculative things he does when tinkering with orders of battle. The world we are in here is just slightly different from our own, but the realities of current naval posture and real readiness for war on all sides is a strong underpinning for the outcomes presented here.
The tactics pursued by Karpov were born in the ships the Russians decided to build, and with the weapons and their capabilities or shortcomings. The author keenly contrasts the ongoing development of Russian missiles, from the Moskit Sunburn we all became familiar with in the earlier volumes, through the dread Zircon that now moves at hypersonic speeds. By contrast, the US destroyers, if they have them at all, will still be lugging the old Harpoon into battle, a weapon first put into service in 1977. Yes, the new stuff is depicted here, like the American LRASM, but then we get to that head count on the missiles actually in inventory. It’s chilling.
The actual results of the many naval battles ahead, however, were not simply things John decided himself. They were carefully simulated in today’s premier Air / Naval combat simulation software, (Command: Modern Naval/Air Operations, abbreviated CMANO.) This five star design was deemed so accurate that the US military actually utilizes it as a training tool, and here it serves as the final arbiter of whether or not a missile strikes its intended target in these battles. All the capabilities of every weapon are carefully modeled by the software, along with each and every offensive and defensive sensor involved. Virtually every modern ship and plane type in the world is in the vast database, and so it presents a sprawling canvas for John to paint upon as he brings us his account of a war that is all too close for comfort
The opening segment of Kill Chain is entitled “The Doomsday Clock,” a measure of how close the world presently is to doomsday, and determined at the start of each year by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. As these events unfold here in fiction, it is still sobering to learn that in January of 2019, the doomsday clock was reset to just two minutes before midnight. It hasn’t been that close since 1953, when the scientists wrote: “The hands of the clock of doom have moved again. Only a few more swings of the pendulum, and, from Moscow to Chicago, atomic explosions will strike midnight for Western Civilization.”
The events of this final season are the author’s view of what those last few pendulum swings could be before the end witnessed by the entire crew of Kirov,
when they inadvertently shifted too far forward and saw a blighted world in the future. As such, this story educates as much as it entertains. It takes us into the mindset and strategy driving the
war from every side, the Russians, NATO, the US, and the Chinese. The battles begin here in the Norwegian Sea, but things soon spread to other theaters as well. An oil platform is struck and
destroyed in the Gulf of Mexico, supertankers are under attack in the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea. In this volume, the Fairchild corporate security ship Argos Fire finds foes in the skies over that famous “wine dark sea” and again in the Eastern Med, when they are pressed into service to cover and escort Brigadier Kinlan’s troops from Mersa Matruh to Italy. In this we see how the author plans to use Argos Fire to show us what happens in other theaters of the war, as Kirov cannot be everywhere at once
As this volume ends, however, there is a major shift in the action to the Pacific, where events presented in Men of War are recounted, and re-simulated to show how a flashpoint in the East China Sea gets the pendulum moving in the vast Pacific Theater.
All in all, it’s just mainstream classic Kirov Series action from stem to stern in these books, a season that has
all the flavor and color of the series openers in Season 1. And, as the author explains, the volumes of this final season can stand as a prelude to the main 40 book series that focused so heavily on
WWII. This was done to invite new readers to enter with the first book of this last season, Homecoming, and they can then read this entire season here before moving to the main series
with book one. In effect, this is what would have happened to Kirov and crew if they hadn’t had that fateful accident with Orel in the Norwegian Sea.
This is World War Three….
Kill Chain, Volume 2 in the final season (#42 overall) is just loaded with naval air combat on many fronts. Don’t miss
it, out the first week of March, 2019!