The Soviet Union has warned NATO that any further reinforcement of Europe "will dramatically escalate the situation". The Red Banner Fleet deployed most of its submarines before the conflict erupted; as a result, the surviving ones are now well-placed to interdict NATO shipping in the Atlantic LOCs (Lines Of Communication).
With Iceland still in Soviet hands, even after strikes by the Oriskany CVBG, the airfields are still in operation after Soviet engineers repaired them.
A large, vital convoy is currently approaching Europe with cargo, container ships as well as oil tankers.
The US 2nd Fleet with NFR (Naval Fleet Reserve) units has managed to assemble a motley collection of escorts together including the training carrier USS Lexington with an air group thrown together with reserve squadrons of S-2 Trackers and SH-3 Sea Kings.
The Royal Navy has spared 4 escorts from the Home Fleet to cover the Western Approaches. RAF will also be deploying Nimrod MPA as long-range ASW cover and Sea Kings from RNAS Culdrose when in range; STANAVFORCHAN and MCM 3 groups are also patrolling the South-Western Approaches and English Channel areas.
This convoy must get through, period. Nothing less will do.
Orders for Cmdr NATO Forces
With Iceland's airfields back online, the situation is becoming dire for NATO. Even though there are no strike aircraft on Iceland at present, Badger and Bear MPAs are thought to be using the airfields as a staging base for deep recon and surveillance into the Atlantic.
Submarine threat is the main problem: a unknown number of Soviet submarines had sortied south before the outbreak of hostilities, and with the severe degradation of SOSUS their positions are unknown at present.
NATO still requires fuel, ammunition and stores from CONUS to Europe, so a fast convoy is en route protected by the venerable aircraft carrier USS Lexington, now re-rolled from training carrier duty to her new role as ASW flagship.
Subsurface : Multiple SSK, SSN, SSGN, SSG
Surface : Unknown
Air: Tu-95 Bear (recon), Tu-22M Backfire (strike), Tu-16 Badger (Recon and ELINT versions)
TASK GROUP 20.04: USS Lexington CVS, USS Charles F. Adams DDG, USS Barry DD, USS Orleck DD, USS Richard L. Page FFG, USS Talbot FFG, USS Koelsch FFH, USS Pharris FFH, USS Valdez FFH.
1st frigate squadron: HMS Tartar FFH, HMS Brighton FFH, HMS Salisbury FF, HMS Jupiter FFH.
MCM 3 Squadron: HMS Glasserton, HMS Shoulton.
STANAVFORCHAN: HMS Kirkliston, FGS Paderborn, HNLMS Gemert, BNS Bovesse.
RAF St Mawgan: 201 Sqn (Nimrod MR.1)
RNAS Culdrose: 820 Sqn (SeaKing HAS.1)
Lann-Bihoue: 23F (Atlantque 1)
Safely escort the fast convoy to area "Safe Haven" in the English Channel.
1. Using shore-based ASW assets, conduct aggressive ASW patrols in relevant areas .
2. USS Lexington's air group to provide close- and medium-range ASW coverage on transit to area "Safe Haven" in the English Channel.
Command and EMCON
Command: USS Lexington
EMCON: Alpha-limited emissions
September 18, 1975, 0900Z
The convoy has 840nm to go to make it to the safe haven in the Channel.
|It's a long way to the English Channel|
I am reluctant to send up an AWACS aircraft over the convoy, as it might just alert the Russians to my position, so for now I'll keep my AEW aircraft quiet for now. This may be a mistake...
0941Z Contact. The first sub-surface contact is made, northwest of USS Talbot. A Sea King and a Sea Sprite both maneuver to investigate.
1007Z A Soviet satellite flies overhead. The weather over the convoy is moderate cloud cover and heavy rain, so it's possible that the satellite will not detect it. I decide to keep a "wait and see" approach to launching my AEW aircraft.
|A Soviet satellite passes overhead|
|Damn the torpedoes, or damn the cruise missiles?|
|Four vampires inbound on the nearly defenseless USS Pharris|
103624Z To my utter astonishment, my E-1B Tracer is shot down, right over the convoy and less than five miles from the Lexington!
|The E-1B Tracer is shot down right over the convoy|
The Tu-95RT Bear wanders close to the USS Lexington of all ships, which opens fire with its 5-inch guns.
|USS Lexington fires on the Bear|
Seconds later, the first A-4 takes off from Lexington, immediately breaks right and launches a Sidewinder from an altitude of 350 feet.
|The A-4 opens fire on the Bear|
110122Z HMS Tartar detects and underwater contacts and engages it with a Mk10 Limbo ASW mortar. The mortar misses, and a minute later, Tartar detects a torpedo in the water. Amazingly, the torpedo misses the Tartar, which continues to close in on the target, apparently only some 200 meters away. After passing over the submarine and turning away, Tartar launches another mortar salvo. This one is a dud and does nothing. Tartar's third mortar shot, five minutes later, is on target and sinks a Whiskey V SSK, and suffers some minor blast damage because it is so close. One sub down.
|Duty Cats #12 detects a submarine contact|
The last Depth Charge misses as well, and the Tracker is Winchester, but now a Sea Sprite, Valdez Flt #1, arrives on the scene.
|Valdez Flt #1 arrives to take over prosecution of the contact|
1313Z A bogey is detected north of the protected sea lane, likely another Tu-95RT. No emissions are detected, and as it is some 200nm away, I decide to ignore it for now.
133141Z Vampire! Vampire! Missiles detected, bearing 070, estimated 178nm. Naturally, that bearing is one where I have essentially no AA assets. I hope those missiles are headed somewhere else...
134401Z More vampires detected! Apparently the submarine that shot at the Commercial Carrier is firing more missiles. I feel bad for him, but at least it's not me that's being fired upon! Eventually the two Vampire contacts are lost, and the fate of the Commercial Carrier is unknown.
150620Z USS Koelsch detects a submarine contact to the southwest of the convoy, some 30nm miles away from it. A Sea King is dispatched to prosecute.
A bogey is detected moving south west of the convoy, and the two A-4s flying CAP are tasked to intercept. Likely it is another Bear. The Bear proves elusive in the clouds, and seeing as the A-4s have no radar, they are forced to rely on the Mk1 Eyeball to find it. Eventually they do, and a Sidewinder takes out the Bear.
1638Z Another Soviet satellite passes overhead.
164734Z Vampire! Vampire! HMS Salisbury detects a pair of vampires to the west.
|HMS Salisbury detects two Vampires|
The Vampires close in, and more are detected, It appears that a second salvo is on the way.
|Multiple vampires inbound|
|The Vampires close in...but what is their target?|
|The Vampires choose another target.|
Contact with the Vampires headed towards Jupiter are lost. HMS Tartar, however, is still threatened. The Vampires appear to have a good bearing.
|The Vampires close on HMS Tartar|
The Nimrod dispatched to investigate the area liberally covers it in sonobuoys but no contacts are made.
Meanwhile, USS Koelsch detects another submarine contact, and Koelsch's Sea Sprite investigates. Also to the southwest, the A-4s of the CAP investigate another airborne snooper.
The A-4s take out the snooper, which as expected was a Tu-95 Bear D.
Koelsch Flt #1 drops a torpedo on the contact, and hits it, but submarine is not sunk. Winchester, the Sea Sprite is forced to leave the area. A Sea King sets a course to follow-up the attack.
The Sea King arrives and drops a torpedo...and a November SSN is sunk. Four subs down.
As night falls over the Atlantic, the convoy suffered the loss of one escort, the USS Pharris, but sunk four submarines in return. It still has a long way to go until safety, some 730 nautical miles.
Continued in Part Two.