Wednesday, July 26, 2017

COMMAND: Northern Inferno Scenario 10: An Eye for an Eye


Despite early warning, the Soviet use of nuclear weapons against mainland UK RAF bases came as a rude shock. The Prime Minister, with consultation with his Defence Staff, have agreed to order a retaliatiory strike against the Kola Peninsula.

The use of Polaris SLBMs or Vulcan B.2 bombers for a nuclear strike has been ruled out as their employment could escalate the situation into full-scale nuclear war, and these precious assets need to be withheld as the ultimate bargaining chip.

The majority of RAF bases in Scotland have been wiped out in a second-wave strike conducted by Soviet SSGNs firing nuclear cruise missiles, and RAF's nuclear-capable Buccaneer strikers in the UK midlands do not have the necessary range to conduct a strike, as recent losses have severely limited tanker support.

This means that the Fleet Air Arm must undertake the mission. 809 Sqn Buccaneer S.2Ds based on HMS Ark Royal have been ordered to conduct nuclear strikes on the Kola Peninsula.

The Ark Royal group now enters the Soviet backyard, to deliver the Queen's vengeance.

Orders for Cmdr NATO Forces
809 Sqn Buccaneers on HMS Ark Royal have been brought up to strength with additional aircraft from storage after the recent losses against Northern Fleet units earlier this month.

Soviet Air defences are estimated as heavy, with various SAM and AAA Systems, backed up with PVO Fighters.

Strike targets are the airbase in the Kola Peninsula which launched strikes on the United Kingdom mainland.

Projected strike aircraft losses are over 80 percent. We do not expect everyone to come back from this.
Recon imagery of Olenegorsk air base
Enemy Forces
SAM Systems : SA-2 Guideline, SA-3 Goa, SA-5 Gammon.
Air : Su-15 Flagon, Yak-28 Firebar, Tu-128 Fiddler.
Surface : ASW Patrol Craft.
Subsurface : Possible SSN, SSGN from intel reports.

Friendly Forces
Carrier Strike Group 2 : HMS Ark Royal CV, HMS Glamorgan DDG, HMS Sheffield DDG, HMS Berwick FFH, HMS Galatea FFH, HMS Danae FFH, RFA Resurgent AE, RFA Tidespring AO.

HMS Ark Royal Air Group:
  • 824 Sqn (SeaKing HAS.1)
  • 809 Sqn (Buccaneer S.2D)
  • 892 Sqn (Phantom FG.1)
  • 849 Sqn B Flt (Gannet AEW)
  • SAR Flt (Wessex HAS.1)
Conduct tactical nuclear strikes on the Soviet air bases of Olenegorsk and Severomorsk-1.

Recon imagery of Severomorsk-1 air base
1. Two 809 Sqn Buccaneers loaded with WE.177 to strike Olenegorsk.  (Titan 78)
2. Two 809 Sqn Buccaneers loaded with WE.177 to strike Severomorsk-1. (Dusty 79)
3. Eight 809 Sqn Buccaneers configured in the SEAD-ARM role to clear a path through for the strike package.
4. Two 809 Sqn Buccaneers configured for tanker role.
5. 893 Sqn Phantoms to provide escort for the strike aircraft.

Command and EMCON
Command: HMS Ark Royal
EMCON: ALPHA Limited Emissions

September 26, 1975, 0500Z
The Ark Royal's crew had been hard at work preparing the strike, and the mood was tense.
A Buccaneer of 809 Sqn on the cat
It took over 20 minutes for the strike package to launch and form up.
A Phantom of 829 Sqn launching
The Gannet AEW detects multiple Su-15MF Flagon Ds, likely a CAP.  It's doubtful that the Ark Royal's position is known.
The plan to is fly low and avoid most of the SAM defense
The plan is to descend at the extent of radar coverage, skirting the edge of SAM range, then make a dash for the targets from the northeast.  A straight in run would take the strike right into the teeth of the Soviet air defenses.
Multiple air and surface contacts are detected
There are perhaps 16 air contacts and 5 surface contacts.

053518Z It looks like the interceptors aren't waiting for me to get too close.
The first interceptors show up
The interceptor count increases to six.
Interceptor count is six
They aren't behaving as if they have detected the strike yet.  The Phantoms, all twelve of them, move to intercept the interceptors.

To prevent them from burning up too much fuel, I slow my interceptors to cruise, and I set my strike package to loiter to give the interceptors time to get a little lead.  I also start decreasing their altitude in the hopes of keeping them from being detected a little longer.

And then, the eight Soviet interceptors all turn and start to leave. Is it because they lost contact with me, or are they low on fuel? My F-4s still have their radars on, so it's hard to tell.
The interceptors leave?
I order my Fighters to break off and return to their packages.  Just before the contacts are lost, they are identified as Yak-28P Firebars. The more distant contacts, some of them anyway, are Su-15 Flagons, identified by their radar emissions.
More interceptors, for real this time.
The Phantoms begin firing Sparrows.

Splash One.  The contacts are identified as Tu-128 Fiddlers.
Splash One.
Missiles are detected inbound.
Missiles fill the sky
Missiles are everywhere, and I am tempted to micromanage every single aircraft's actions, but I decide that I have to trust my escorts to know what they're doing.

Splash Two.

Then one of my Phantoms is shot down by a lucky hit.

Splash Three.

Splash Four.  I'm killing them, but it's using up a lot of Sparrows to do it.

Splash Five, and then Six.
Su-15 Flagon
Now I have three bogies bugging out, and three bogies closing in. One of them is a Su-15MF Flagon D.

Here comes a Flagon...
My F-4s expend a lot more Sparrows, and then one of my Phantoms is shot down at close range.
My second Phantom is shot down
Splash Seven, this one a Flagon, and then Splash Eight.

Once most of the Soviet interceptors have turned tail, I constantly have to adjust the speed of my Phantoms down from afterburner to cruise.  They have limited fuel, and I cannot afford to have them go Bingo when I need them most.

I splash two more Flagons, then notice that a three-ship is heading towards my strike package.
Missiles inbound on the strike package!
The first salvo of missiles miss. The second doesn't, and one of my ARM armed Buccaneers is shot down.
A Buccaneer is shot down
My strike flight is still in deep trouble.  I manage to shoot down a Yak-28P Firebar.  There are still three bogies in the immediate area, and a few more further out.
Yak-28P Firebar
A second Firebar is splashed, and then a third.
More bogies inbound
Looking further afield, four more bogies are inbound. My Phantoms are completely out of Sparrows, so hopefully this is all they have left to throw at me.

The Soviet fighters launch their radar-guided missiles first, which miss, but then they close in.  One of the Su-15 Flagons shoots an AA-3 Advanced Anab F missile and succeeds in shooting down one of my strike Buccaneers. And just like that...I've lost one of my four nuclear bombs.
Buccaneer 809 Sqn #13, seconds before being shot down.
A Phantom attempts revenge on the Flagon with a Sidewinder, which misses, giving the Flagon time to shoot down a different Phantom. Finally, a third Phantom shoots down the offending Flagon. After a chase, my escorts shoot down one more, and for the moment, at least, my strike packages are not threatened by interceptors.

The bad news is, I detect a bunch more bogies to the south. This could get ugly.

As the bogies approach, my strike package drops to the deck. The Soviets launch a few missiles, but fortunately none hit. And then, all about the same time, my Phantoms go Bingo and have to head home. My strikes are on their own.
The Phantoms go RTB.
My strikes still have approximately 80 miles to go to skirt the SAM batteries along the coast, and then the final dash inland, 60 miles to Severomorsk-1, and 95 miles to Olenegorsk.
Still have a long way to go.
061758Z Several SAMs are launched at my retreating Phantoms, but fortunately they mostly dodge them. In dodging the SAMs several of the Phantoms won't make it home without refueling, so I go through them, sending those that can make it home directly, while sending the rest to the tankers.

My strike package, however, despite flying at 300 feet ASL, is apparently still detected, as some Tu-128 Fiddlers attempt an intercept.
Fiddlers attempt to intercept.
The Fiddlers pass, but have difficulty engaging the strike so low. Four Fiddlers chase the package, but seem unwilling to descend below 1500 ft.  Then a Su-15 Flagon shows up. Although it descends to 300 feet, it still doesn't launch any missiles. Fortunately their radars are not "look-down shoot-down", so they can't engage the Buccaneers amidst the ground clutter.
The escorts begin shooting AS.37 Martels to take out the radars
As the strike closes in, the SEAD escorts begin launching Martels to take out radars on the coast.
The Buccaneers go feet dry over the Russian coast
Staying at 500 feet AGL, the Buccaneers hug the terrain as they close in on their targets. So far, no SAMs have been launched, but that could change very quickly.

The Severomorsk-1 Strike is 40nm away from its target, and the Olenegorsk Strike is 63nm away. The Soviet interceptors still attempt to shadow the Buccaneers, but are unable to attack them.
The strikes are not yet being fired upon by SAMs
063141Z With the strikes 27nm and 49nm away from their targets, the first SAM launch is detected, a SA-3b Goa near Severomorsk-1. The nearest Buccaneer immediately targets the SAM battery with its remaining Martels.
SAM launch!
The SA-3b battery near Severomorsk-1 takes some Martel hits, hopefully reducing its effectiveness. The strike is 19nm out.
A nuclear SAM is inbound
As the Severomorsk-1 strike closes to within 15nm of its target, one of the escorting Buccaneers inadvertently ascends to above 1000 feet AGL, and the Soviets are ready. Instantly a nuclear SAM is launched. The Buccaneer immediately dives again, but the SAM closes in anyway.  The strike package maneuvers in an attempt to avoid flying right into the fireball should it detonate.
SA-5 Gammon
Amazingly, the 25kT nuclear SAM malfunctions...could it be that bad Soviet Quality Control has doomed the air base?

A second Buccaneer foolishly ascends, and this time the ambushing nuclear SAM does not malfunction.
The 25kT nuclear SAM detonates
The fireball blossoms
As the fireball expands, the escorting Buccaneers unleash salvos of Martels at the SA-5b Gammon launch site.
SAMs launch everywhere
063449Z As the Severomorsk-1 strike closes to under 10nm from its target, SAMs start launching everywhere.  The Martels have hit the nuclear SAM site, silencing it temporarily, but it is but one of many sites in the area. SAMs are all over the place.

063520Z Bombs away!
Bombs away!
One of the escorting Buccaneers is shot down, but the rest of the Severomorsk-1 package turns and runs.

To the south, the Olenegorsk strike package has its hands full with SAMs.
The Olenegorsk strike is heavily engaged by SAMs
063647Z The WE.177 Type B 400kt Nuclear bomb detonates over Severomorsk-1.
The fireball expands
The fireball destroys the town of Severomorsk with its 50,000 inhabitants, and expands to the outskirts of Murmansk, a city of nearly 300,000.

To the south, the Olenegorsk strike still deals with SAMs. The escorts are out of Martels, and so head for home. It's up to 809 Sqn #14 to go it alone.  The Buccaneer dodges unbelievable amounts of SAMs as it bobs and weaves its way towards Olenegorsk Airbase.

And then, a mere 7nm from its target, the Buccaneer's luck runs out. Constantly dodging, it is forced to fly very close to a SAM site and it is hit by a SA-3b Goa.
Olenegorsk will survive.
The surviving Buccaneers, six of them, fly low over the sea until they are out of SAM range and then climb and slow to 350kts to conserve fuel for the return home. The Gannet AEW.3 aircraft detects Soviet interceptors inbound, but the Soviets are blind and cannot find the leaving strike package.
The survivors return home
080516Z The surviving Buccaneers land safely on Ark Royal, which then sets a course west in an attempt to get out of harm's way...
Home safe.


I have to admit that I "cheated" a little on this one. On my first attempt, my Buccaneers got to the Soviet coast and then refused to obey my frantic commands to keep them flying low. They soared into the sky, the SAM radars picked them up and send scads of nuclear SAMs at me...and in no time it was all over. My mistake was that I assumed the AI would keep the Buccaneers low and following the terrain.

So after that debacle, I opened a previous save from just before the Buccaneers went feet dry. This time I micromanaged the hell out of them, updating and plotting courses for each individual aircraft frequently to ensure they would stay as low as I could keep them. I would let the simulation run for maybe 5 seconds, then check each aircraft to make sure it was doing what I told it to, give it new orders if it was misbehaving, and then let the sim run for another few seconds. I had to do this for the entire attack run.  Even so, two of my Buccaneers decided to go ballistic for no apparent reason and got shot down for their trouble.

Complaints aside, the mission was exciting, and I think my plan was basically sound. I was not expecting the air battle to occur so far out to sea, but my Phantoms did their job. Once the strike stayed low enough, they managed to get pretty far inland before the sky lit up with SAMs. If I did it again, I would have sent my Olenegorsk strike through the gap in SAM coverage between Severomorsk and Olenegorsk, and then south to attack Olenegorsk from the west. As it was, the eastern approach to Olenegorsk is overloaded with SAM batteries, and I'm surprised my strike Buccaneer made it as far as it did.

On to Scenario 11, which promises to be epic, but begins with some depressing news...

Score: 1000

SIDE: Soviet Union

6x Tu-128 Fiddler A
7x Su-15MF Flagon D
3x Yak-28P Firebar
3x Radar (Thin Skin A HF [PRV-9])
1x Radar (Thin Skin B HF [PRV-16])
3x Radar (Spoon Rest C [P-12])
2x Vehicle (Low Blow [SNR-125])
4x SA-3b Goa Quad Rail
6x SA-7a Grail [9K32 Strela-2] MANPADS
2x Vehicle (Flat Face B [P-19])
2x Radar (Bar Lock A [P-37])
3x Building (Square Pair [5N62])
1x Building (Tall King C [P-14])
4x Vehicle (Fan Song F [RSNA-75M])
4x Vehicle (Spoon Rest C [P-12])
6x SA-2f Guideline Mod 1/2 Single Rail
1x Runway (4000m)
1x Single-Unit Airfield (1x 3201-4000m Runway)

8x AA-5 Ash A [R-4R, SARH]
6x AA-3 Anab C [R-98R, SARH]
1x AA-3 Anab D [R-98T, IR]
6x AA-3 Advanced Anab E [R-98MR, SARH]
1x AA-3 Advanced Anab F [R-98MT, IR]
1x AA-8 Aphid [R-60T]
29x SA-5b Gammon [5V28, 25kT Nuclear]
38x SA-3b Goa [5V27, V-601P]
30x SA-2f Guideline Mod 1 [S-75M2 Volkhov, 5YA23 / V-759]
12x 23mm ZU-23-2 Burst [20 rnds]
2x SA-7a Grail [9M32]


4x Phantom II FG.1
6x Buccaneer S.2D

16x AN/SSQ-47 Julie Active Range-Only
46x AIM-7E2 Sparrow III
18x AIM-9D Sidewinder
26x AS.37 Martel [ARM]
1x WE.177 Type B [400kT Nuclear]


Ginge said...

Was it imperative for the escorting buccaneers to return alive? When they ran out of missiles leaving #14 alone, I wondered if they could not have accompanied him, just to provide other targets for the SAMs to engage. Harsh I know, but if increased the odds of the critical one getting through...

and hey, if he got shot down anyway, they can bug out later...

Dan Eldredge said...

I did think about it, but there were so many SAM sites in the area I didn't think it would make any difference. Once they started firing, there were multiple SAMs in the air for each aircraft in a non-stop stream. I think keeping the additional Buccaneers in the area would have just guaranteed losing them too.