SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden
the bad guys. The high-speed assault craft, covered by the helo-borne snipers, would assault the lifeboat, engage any surviving bad guys and liberate the hostage. The outcome depended on a thousand things going right and nothing going wrong.
    *   *   *
    In the TOC, Greg Wilson could see everything; everything except what he needed to see most—inside the lifeboat. The Bainbridge ’s own flight deck cameras were low-light capable and pointed aft. They covered the boat perfectly, but they could not see through the decks. Bainbridge ’s cameras were one of half a dozen video-feed windows on the command display. Launched from the USS Boxer, a ScanEagle drone churned out a circular flight plan covering the entire area. Its low-light cameras pinned the lifeboat from the west, and directly overhead at 20,000 feet, a PC-3 Orion patrol plane did a ten-mile-wide orbit over the ships.
    On the command screens, the lifeboat was towing eighty feet behind Bainbridge, their plot symbols touching. To the right, the east, Boxer ghosted along on a parallel course, three miles to starboard. The Sea Fox package, two stealth boats with the wave-skimming Seahawk close behind, were making a broad, clockwise turn to come in perpendicular to the lifeboat. The job of the Sea Foxes was to intercept the lifeboat without crossing behind it and fouling Mel’s fields of fire.
    Mel’s shots would have to be magic, and the Sea Fox package would have to work some sorcery of their own. They had to make their approach unseen, timing it based on a guess. They couldn’t get closer than a quarter of a mile until Mel’s guys shot. And once the snipers went hot, the assault teams of Sea Fox had to instantly assault and board the lifeboat to prevent any surviving pirates from shooting Phillips in cold blood.
    Wilson watched a trio of blips heading obliquely away from the Boxer ; the helicopter and the HSACs. Invisible even to Bainbridge ’s radar, the assault boats’ position was revealed only because they transmitted an identification code on the Naval Tactical Data System. The only platform that could actually detect the boats was the submarine, which could track the high-speed scream of their titanium propellers. The blips came on, the helicopter trailing.
    At one of the stations in the TOC, Greg Wilson rolled a trackball across the data display, triggering a time/speed/distance logarithm. At forty knots, forty-six miles an hour, on pattern three, it was three minutes and fifty seconds until the HSACs intersected the target. Moore saw the trackball wipe over the screen, and he heard the voice of the operations officer.
    “Three minutes out.”
    “Notify Bainbridge .”
    One of the Twidgets contacted Bainbridge ’s combat Information center, “Be advised, Sea Fox package is three minutes out.”
    It was Frank Costello’s voice that answered back from the destroyer’s bridge, “ Bainbridge copies.”
    There were maybe thirty seconds of tense silence.
    The blips representing the boats were two circles, the symbol for the trailing helicopter was a half rectangle overlaid with a “T.” The symbols blinked slowly, overlapping as they moved forward. Now they were two and half miles from the boat.
    In the TACTAS room, Mel and his shooters were ready. In the TOC, Wilson stared at the command screens, making sure he saw everything correctly. The boats and helicopters were converging.
    In an opaque night, three bad guys and a hostage heaved up and down in a closed lifeboat. Would they hear the helicopter? Would they see the HSACs coming?
    “Alert Stoop Zero Seven, window is open,” Wilson said. “Sea Fox package continue to phase line Alpha.”
    The orders were passed.
    Wilson had authorized Mel to fire when he had the shot. All three at once, or nothing at all.
    Now it was a roll of the dice.
    *   *   *
    In the TACTAS compartment, the earphones all hissed together. On the shooting platform, Mel put his legs apart, lifting them up and

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