In the 1993 time-frame, after the end of the cold war, a group of disenfranchised former leaders of the Soviet Union seek to undermine the current Russian Federation power structure and embarrass the United States. Using Libyan President Moammar Khadaffi as their foil, they arrange for the covert transfer of 24 specially configured Soviet SU-27K fighters to a secret base in Southern Libya. The fighters are the entire inventory of carrier versions of the Sukhoi fighter with folding wings, tailhooks and super engines that had been intended for the first real Russian aircraft carrier, Tiblisi. The key figures in the intrigue are a Russian test pilot, Vladimir Chilin, the test pilot who conducted the carrier tests on the Tiblisi as well as the instructor who trains the Libyan special squadron; Abou Wattaz, the leading Libyan fighter pilot; Abou Nidal, the world's most deadly hitman and a U.S. Navy fighter aircrew from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. The climax of the story occurs in the air over the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya. The Navy aircrew, Commander Jay Blakeley and his radar intercept officer, Lieutenant Frank Brownley lead a flight of F-14s into a pitched aerial engagement with the entire special Libyan squadron. It is clash of high-technology fighters and aerial weapons in an action-packed engagement "furball", with devastating results for the Libyans. Vladimir Chilin, who is an airborne witness to the disaster, avoids an assassination attempt by his Libyan wingman and makes the difficult choice of defecting to the American aircraft carrier.