The men of The Campus must stop radical Islamists from threatening Russia with nuclear missiles and starting a war between Pakistan and India. John Clark becomes a pawn in the election campaign between President Ed Kealty and Jack Ryan, Sr.
It is election season, and Jack Ryan, Sr. is campaigning against the incumbent, Ed Kealty, to be the next US president. Agents from The Campus have recently captured a prominent terrorist known as the Emir and have discreetly turned him over to the authorities, and he is being held in the most secure civilian prison in the US. The Campus is also engaged internationally in following the movements of other known terrorists. Dominic Caruso and Sam Driscoll are in Cairo shadowing a terrorist named Mustafa el Daboussi. They watch el Daboussi and take photos of him having a meeting with an apparently high ranking military man whom they can’t immediately identify.
As part of his daily duties of keeping track of messages going into and out of the CIA, Jack Ryan, Jr. finds out that a terrorist named Hosni Rokki is travelling to France. He tells the others at The Campus and John Clark and Domingo Chavez go there to check it out. They arrive in Paris and stake out the building that Rokki is supposed to be in. Rokki goes to the Four Seasons hotel and checks in. Knowing that Rokki would have lots of helpful information on terrorist activity, and suspecting he may be preparing for a terrorist attack, Clark decides that they should try to abduct Rokki. He sends for Driscoll, Caruso and Ryan to join them. The team assembles in Paris and prepares for the operation. They notice that French agents are staked out in the hotel next door, keeping watch on Rokki’s room. As they get in position, Ryan notices another unknown group of men enter the hotel that the French agents are in. He realizes that they are going to attack the French agents and lets the rest of the team know. They quickly abort their plan to abduct Rokki and head to the French agents’ room. After shooting it out with the men and saving the French agents, they flee the scene, elude capture by the local police and fly out of Paris.
Nigel Embling, a former British agent living in Pakistan, meets Major Mohammed al Darkur. Al Darkur tells him that he suspects a coup is in the works, and wants Embling to pass the information on to his contacts in the west. Embling passes on what he has heard about the possible coup to The Campus. They decide to send Sam Driscoll to follow-up on it.
Hoping to give his campaign against Jack Ryan, Sr. a boost, President Kealty meets with Paul Laska, a rich and powerful, liberal-minded man who is the head of a law firm called the Progressive Constitution Initiative. Laska pledges continued support for Kealty if Kealty will arrange for his firm to defend the Emir in court. Judith Cochrane is assigned the Emir’s case and begins holding meetings with the Emir in prison. The Emir draws sketches of the men that captured him and provides them to Cochrane, who in turn delivers them to Laska. Laska has a meeting with Charles Alden, deputy director of the CIA. He shows him the drawings of the men that the Emir drew and passed on to Cochrane. Alden recognizes two of the men: Clark and Chavez.
A Pakistani general named Riaz Rehan, who is also a radical Islamist, is plotting to take over the government. He meets radical Islamists from Dagestan who want to get their militant leader, Israpil Nabiyev, out of Russian custody. Among them is the president of Kosmos Space Flight Corporation, Georgi Safronov. They combine forces and come up with a scheme for escalating violence between India and Pakistan and stealing nuclear bombs. Rehan organizes a terrorist attack on a crowded highway in India during the morning rush hour, in which many people are killed or injured. This is the first action of Operation Saker, Rehan’s effort to increase hostilities between India and Pakistan and promote the upcoming planned coup attempt.
Analysts at The Campus apply facial recognition software to the pictures that Driscoll and Caruso took in Cairo. They find that the man has several aliases but is actually General Rehan.
Laska meets with a former Russian agent, Oleg Kovalenko. He asks Kovalenko to set up a meeting between him and his son Valentin, who is currently working for the SVR. He then meets Valentin Kovalenko and asks him to use his position as a Russian agent to look into the background of John Clark. Knowing that Clark has been associated with Jack Ryan, Sr in the past, he is hoping to soil Ryan’s election campaign.
Embling introduces Driscoll to al Darkur in Pakistan. Al Darkur agrees to take Driscoll with him to perform surveillance on the camp where they suspect training is being done for the coup attempt. While Driscoll, al Darkur and the other men with them are monitoring the traffic going into and coming out of the camp, they are attacked by a group of men. They try to make a hasty escape. Some of them are killed and others are injured. Al Darkur escapes and Driscoll is captured.
Kovalenko sends the information he has found on Clark to Laska, who arranges for it to be delivered to Kealty’s campaign manager. He shares it with the president, who sees an opportunity to win some points against Ryan in the campaign. He instructs his advisors to start a manhunt for Clark. As a SWAT team arrives at Clark’s property, Clark sees them in time to flee the area while he tries to figure out what is going on. Attorney General Brannigan holds a press conference where he announces that John Clark is a fugitive from justice and that a manhunt is underway. Just after a rally, Jack Ryan, Sr. is caught off guard by a reporter who questions him about Clark. He leaves without comment, since this is the first he has heard about the manhunt for his old friend. Meanwhile Clark meets an old contact from the CIA named Hardesty. Hardesty tells him that he was questioned about Clark, and the questions were about a particular operation he was involved in years earlier, which gives Clark the idea to travel to Europe to look for someone else that was involved. When it becomes apparent to President Kealty and his advisors that Clark has left the country, Alden tells the President that he knows of a way to track down Clark. He contacts Laska who hires a French investigation agency to look for him in Europe.
Jack Ryan, Jr., Chavez and Caruso travel to Dubai. Rehan has a house there that he uses as a headquarters for coordinating terrorist activities in the area. They set up surveillance on the house using UAVs and some hi-tech camera bots. Embling and al Darkur are also in Dubai, awaiting Rehan to return to his headquarters and monitor his activity. Al Darkur and Embling contact The Campus to let them know that Driscoll has been captured and they will be mounting a rescue attempt. In the meantime, Rehan directs some terrorists to escalate their attacks across India, then travels to his house in Dubai. He has found out where al Darkur and Embling are and prepares an attack on them. The Campus men surveilling Rehan’s house record the activity and conversations, and once they get the conversation translated realize that they need to hurry to help al Darkur and Embling. They arrive in time to save al Darkur but Embling is killed.
Jack Ryan, Sr. defeats Kealty in the presidential election.
Clark travels through Europe, tracking down leads and trying to learn why he has recently become the target of a manhunt. He finally learns that Valentin Kovalenko was the one who was originally trying to dig up Clark’s past. Clark then calls The Campus and asks them to look into Kovalenko and figure out who he is and why he would try to get Clark in trouble. After doing some checking, they discover evidence of the meeting between Laska and Kovalenko’s father. Knowing that Laska’s organization is defending the Emir, they realize that the charges against Clark are politically motivated.
Tensions rise between India and Pakistan because of all of the violence in India, and because the Indian government suspects Pakistan of encouraging it. Pakistan goes to a higher state of military readiness, including plans to move some of its nuclear arsenal into strategic positions.
Al Darkur’s men find out that Driscoll is being held by Haqqani forces at a location in Waziristan. He coordinates a rescue attempt with Jack Ryan, Jr., Caruso and Chavez. Al Darkur and the Campus men infiltrate the facility while al Darkur’s men provide cover from helicopters circling outside. They fight their way into the building and find Driscoll along with a couple of other prisoners. After finding some bomb making equipment in the building, they blow a hole in the wall and escape by holding off the Haqqani long enough to board one of the helicopters.
Clark finds Oleg Kovalenko’s apartment and notices it is being watched by other men. He manages to sneak in and starts to question Kovalenko. Kovalenko slyly signals the men through the window and the men capture Clark.
Rehan, Safronov and a group of Dagestanis attack a train in Pakistan that is transporting two nuclear bombs. The attack is a success and they steal the bombs. Soon afterward, Safronov and the staff of Kosmos Space Flight Corporation are preparing for what everyone thinks is a routine satellite launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. But Safronov has secretly arranged for two rockets to be loaded with the bombs that he and Rehan have stolen. Safronov and the Dagestanis then take over the facility at gunpoint. He announces his intensions to fire the missiles at Moscow unless Nabiyev is set free. Russian special forces hastily put together a plan to retake the rocket facility. Though they kill some of the Dagestanis, the mission fails. Safronov fires a rocket to prove his resolve, intentionally firing one that is not loaded with a nuclear payload. It lands at an oil refinery and does some damage.
Clark is being held in a warehouse by the men from the French investigation agency. Valentin Kovalenko arrives, and they torture Clark to try to get him to say who he is working for. The Russians, desperate for help in resolving the crisis at the Cosmodrome, track down Kovalenko and Clark. They take Kovalenko into custody and begin to treat Clark’s wounds. They also ask him to coordinate another attempt to re-take the Cosmodrome. He agrees and they begin to make their way to the Cosmodrome. On the way he calls Chavez and tells him to meet him there.
CIA spotters identify Rehan and his entourage arriving at the airport in Lahore. Ryan, Caruso and al Darkur travel there and find where Rehan is staying. When Rehan leaves with his men Ryan and the others follow him.
Clark has come up with a plan for re-taking the Cosmodrome and he, Chavez and the Russians are in the process of executing it. From a plane flying at high altitude, Chavez parachutes down to the Cosmodrome as other men stand by to attack from outside. Chavez successfully infiltrates the building while the attack begins. Safronov hurries to try to launch the missiles but Chavez makes his way into the control room and shoots him. Once they have the control room secure they deactivate the missiles. The Russians examine the missiles and realize that only one of them has a nuclear payload. Rehan switched the other out and is getting ready to use it in Lahore. Clark calls Ryan and tells him. Meanwhile Ryan and the others have followed Rehan to a warehouse near a train station. They haven’t been close enough to see what exactly he has been doing, but now they know that Rehan is arming a nuclear bomb and time is of the essence. They attack the warehouse, Rehan flees and Ryan chases Rehan. Ryan catches up to Rehan, they get in a fight and Ryan kills him. In the gunfight at the warehouse, al Darkur, Caruso and al Darkur’s men are able to kill the men guarding the bomb. They deactivate the bomb, putting an end to the crisis.
It is mentioned in chapter 3 that at the time of this story Jack Ryan, Jr. is 26 years old.
Sam Driscoll’s mission in Pakistan and recruitment by The Campus, which are mentioned in chapter 4, are events that occurred in Dead or Alive.
The death of Brian Caruso, which is mentioned in chapter 4, is detailed in Dead or Alive.
The capture and interrogation of the Emir is mentioned in chapter 5. That event was detailed in Dead or Alive.
The private Gulfstream jet that The Campus uses in many of the novels in the series makes its debut in Locked On. Adara Sherman also makes her debut in Locked On as the jet’s flight attendant.
Chapter 21 refers to how the Campus operators used succinylcholine injector pens during their first few missions. Those events are detailed in The Teeth of the Tiger.
Jack Ryan, Jr’s relationship with Melanie Kraft and her spying on him, which begins in Locked On, is a major plotline in the subsequent novel Threat Vector.