Thursday, July 13, 2017

COMMAND: Northern Inferno Scenario 8: Damn the Torpedoes Part 2

In Part One of this Scenario, a NATO convoy is headed across the Atlantic to a safe haven in the English Channel. The convoy is absolutely vital--it must get through. The primary threat is from submarines, and undoubtedly there are a lot of them.

In the first day of the mission, I lost the frigate USS Pharris early on to a cruise missile attack, but I repaid the favor by sinking four Soviet submarines. But there is a long way to go still, some 730 nautical miles.  The first day is over, now my convoy must make it through the night.
September 19, 1975, 014203Z After several hours of relative quiet, one of the Sea Kings closes in on a ship wandering a little too close to the convoy for comfort. It is identified as the SSV Mayak, a Soviet intelligence ship. I shall not suffer this ship to survive.

USS Charles F. Adams opens fire on the Mayak with its 5-inch guns
Before the first shells even have a chance to hit, the E-1B Tracer above the convoy detects Vampire launches to the northeast.
Vampires detected!
As the Charles F. Adams pounds the Mayak, the Vampire contacts firm up, and they appear to be heading towards the convoy on a bearing of 234.  The closest ship along that bearing (235) is Charles F. Adams itself, which is on the far side of the convoy.  Soon contact with the Mayak is lost, and a Sea Sprite is dispatched to do BDA.
Sea Sprite
Above the convoy, the two A-4 Skyhawks flying CAP move to intercept the inbound cruise missiles. The intercept is successful and the A-4s shoot down both Vampires with their Sidewinders. Immediately thereafter, another pair of Vampires are detected, and A-4s successfully intercept those as well.

0250Z An airborne contact is detected far to the north, about 180nm out, and I suspect it's another Bear, but then it launches cruise missiles. Those cruise missiles seem to be moving awfully fast, and then I see that they're going at 2300kts at 74,000 feet.
2300kts? This has me worried.
I hope they're not nuclear. I scan the database and determine that they are AS-4 Kitchens. By this time the missiles change course and are heading almost due south, straight for the convoy.  Not good. My A-4s are moving to intercept, but I seriously doubt they can do anything to missiles that are this high and this fast. There's a good chance that 2 ships in my convoy are doomed. 
Two AS-4 Kitchens inbound, and I have essentially nothing to stop them.
In retrospect I could have stationed the USS Richard L. Page to the north, and maybe I still will do so, but I have serious doubts that the RIM-66A SM-1MR Blk IV would be up to the task of taking out a Mach 4 cruise missile.

The Kitchens move inexorably towards the convoy. The Kitchens begin their terminal dives and zoom by the helpless A-4s like they aren't even there. Even if the A-4s could get into a good firing position, the AIM-9H Sidewinder has a top speed of 1475kts...which has no hope of catching a 2300kt missile.

The apparent target of the Kitchens is the SS Alpha Germania, and "fortunately", both Kitchens appear to have targeted it, which may spare another ship the same fate.
The Alpha Germania is doomed
Alpha Germania sinks
The second AS-4 Kitchen, its target destroyed, self-destructs.

USS Richard L. Page maneuvers to act as goal keeper over the convoy. And then, two more bogeys are detected inbound. They are almost certainly more Backfires (originally I thought they were Badgers), flying in to dump more unavoidable AS-4 Kitchens my way.

Two more Bogeys detected
As expected, the bogeys soon launch cruise missiles. Their profiles indicate that they are more AS-4 Kitchens. Four vampires are inbound, which means I just lost two more ships.

USS Orleck and USS Richard L. Page are along the bearings of the inbound Vampires, so I hope that they might sacrifice themselves to save the convoy. The escorts are expendable. The convoy is not.

A few moments later the Vampires make course corrections. It's possible that the USS Orleck is the target for all four missiles.
The Vampires streak in

The first two vampires ignore Orleck, and appear to be targeting the Edith Maersk instead. The second pair are still aimed at Orleck. The second pair does not begin their terminal dive, however, and so will likely ignore Orleck and take out another ship instead.
The Vampires ignore the Orleck and head towards Edith Maersk
The first Kitchen malfunctions and fails to hit the Edith Maersk. The second impacts the ship and delivers severe damage.
Edith Maersk is hit
Edith Maersk loses its engines and is both on fire and is flooding. One way or the other, it's doomed. Then the second pair of missiles arrive, and the first of the pair sinks the Edith Maersk.  The last missile self destructs.  

All I can hope for is that there are no more Badgers on the way.

Dawn arrives and the rest of the night has been quiet. About 600nm to go.

074928Z USS Talbot detects a submarine contact to the south.  A pair of S-2G Trackers move in to prosecute.

USS Talbot detects a submarine
The first torpedo dropped on the sub is spoofed. The second torpedo flat out misses. The third damages the submarine.  By now, there are three S-2G Trackers flying overhead, and an Atlantique is closing in to hopefully finish the job. The Atlantique's first torpedo hits the sub, again damaging it.

081800Z A sonobuoy in the midst of the protected sea lane, some 200nm ahead of the convoy detects another submarine.  My ASW assets have their hands full.

084308Z Eighteen seconds but 175nm apart, two Soviet submarines are sunk, an Echo II SSGN south of the convoy and a Whiskey V SSK farther along the protected sea lane. Submarines five and six are down.

085426Z It is not long before another submarine is detected, this one, dead center in the protected sea lane, 160nm ahead of the convoy.
USS Richard L. Page
And then what I feared happens. USS Richard L. Page detects two bogeys approaching from the northwest. They are almost certainly Badgers or Backfires again, ready to launch more unstoppable anti-ship missiles at the convoy.  The A-4 Skyhawks on CAP immediately head off to intercept, but the contacts are 200nm away, and I  will not be able to intercept them before missile launch. As expected, seconds later the Vampires are detected.

And then I detect two more bogeys, farther west and heading south, but the primary problem is the initial four Vampires launched at the convoy.
Four more Vampires are inbound
The first Vampire I assumed was heading for the MV Sygna, a Dry-Bulk Carrier, but the missile soars right over it and goes for the Emma Maersk, a Container vessel. Unsurprisingly, the Emma Maersk is hit and has major flooding, so it is almost certainly lost.  And now, more vampires are detected, and again, there's nothing I can do to stop them.
AS-4 Kitchen on a Tu-22M Backfire
So much for all the briefing's talk about "Submarines are the main problem."

There are eight Vampires inbound now, and I have only ten merchant ships left. One of the Vampires appears to be targeting the USS Koelsch, so at least there's a silver lining.

SS Bow Pioneer, a Tanker, explodes in a huge fireball.

SS Atlantic Causeway, a RO/RO Vessel, is next to die.
The convoy is utterly helpless in the face of Backfire air raids
USS Koelsch is destroyed next.

More Vampires are detected inbound, so even though three were expended sinking ships, there are still eight of them closing in, every single one of them, an invincible AS-4 Kitchen.
I fear I'm going to lose every single ship...
Eight Vampires inbound.  I have eight ships left in the convoy, not counting the severely damaged Emma Maersk.

The Turkey Shoot continues. Emma Maersk fortunately(?) is targeted by two more cruise missiles and finished off.
More and more ships are killed
One Kitchen self-destructs, leaving six that search for new targets. One runs out of energy before finding another target, but another targets MV Sygna, a Dry-Bulk Carrier, severely damaging it. A second Kitchen hits it and destroys it.

Three Kitchen left, and they appear to be going after the Lexington herself.
USS Lexington may be toast...
In the grand scheme of things, Lexington is worth less than the convoy she's "protecting," but it's clear that she hasn't been much protection at all.

Lexington is hit by two Kitchens in rapid succession and completely destroyed.
USS Lexington is lost
The last Kitchen promptly self-destructs.

It is difficult to overstate what a disaster this is.

Continued in Part Three.

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