Friday, July 14, 2017

COMMAND: Northern Inferno Scenario 8: Damn the Torpedoes Part 3

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 several Soviet submarines.

Then, overnight, things got worse. An air-raid sank two ships of the convoy, and then as the sun rose over the convoy, things went from bad to much, much worse.  A larger air raid struck, sinking several more ships and the USS Lexington itself, the flagship of the convoy.

Yet there are still seven ships in the convoy left, and I still need to make a dash to safety. The problem is that there is still over 500nm to go to safety.

September 19, 1975, 0918Z In probably another six hours I can expect another air raid from Backfires, and that will finish off the convoy.  There is little I can do except to keep moving as fast as I can towards the safe haven, and hope that the Soviets decide they don't want to attack the convoy anymore.

I know, wishful thinking.

Within minutes a Soviet satellite passes overhead, providing imagery that will no doubt make the Politburo cackle with glee.

A submarine is detected in the sea lane, and my dwindling assets maneuver to prosecute. And then, HMS Tartar detects a cruise missile launch.
At the rate they're going, the Soviets are going to sweep the Atlantic clean...
Seconds later, it is detected that there are in fact six Vampires inbound to HMS Tartar and HMS Jupiter. 
The missiles appear to be heading towards HMS Jupiter.  Jupiter has Sea Cats, so that means it will likely be able to defend itself missile?  Maybe?  If I'm lucky?

HMS Jupiter launches a Sea Cat to defend itself
Unsurprisingly, the Sea Cat misses. Jupiter subsequently fires three more Sea Cats, all of miss by a mile, and then fires its 114mm guns, which also misses.
HMS Jupiter
And yet, the first SS-N-9 Siren misses the Jupiter, and the second malfunctions. Naturally, Jupiter's luck runs out and the third missile blows it out of the water.

Two more Vampires are detected, headed in the general direction of HMS Tartar, but they pass off the ship's bow.

093942Z One of the Sea Kings from the Lexington, out of fuel, crashes into the sea.

095724Z A Whiskey V SSK is sunk.  Seven subs down. The minor victory is a hollow one.

100716Z And then the E-1B Tracer detects another air raid. Six aircraft, probably Backfires again. If so, they can launch twelve more Kitchens and completely wipe out the convoy.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was an entire regiment of Backfires on Iceland. Certainly at least 12 are present. Whoever provided the intelligence for this mission needs to be shot.
The last hopes of the convoy are dashed
100916Z Four more Backfires are detected. Raid count is now ten.

100956Z Raid count is now sixteen.
Raid count is sixteen
I had been kicking myself for not being more proactive. I should have had my CAP stationed at least 200nm out along the axis to Iceland to intercept any inbound raids, despite the fact that my Skyhawks would not be able to remain on station for long and there would be inevitable gaps in coverage, not to mention the fact that I couldn't expect a two Skyhawk CAP to stop a regiment of Backfires by itself. I might have stopped the first raid, perhaps damaged the second raid, but this?  Now I realize that there's absolutely nothing I could have done to stop this. Sixteen Backfires means thirty-two Kitchens, which means they can sink my convoy four times over. What a joke.

The Vampires begin to streak in, Kitchens all.

(As a quick aside, I get a notification that a Nimrod at RAF St Mawgan is out of ordnance. The mission isn't even half over, and I'm already running out of weapons?)

The first vampire flies over the USS Orleck, and it surprisingly runs out of energy.  But there are eighteen Vampires in the sky now.

Missile count is now twenty.

101826Z The next Vampire descends, heading for a tanker, the BP British Envoy.  Amazingly, USS Richard L. Page opens fire.  I do not have high hopes for the missile hitting.  The angle is poor, and so is the SAM.
USS Richard L. Page tries desperate to defend the convoy
Predictably the RIM-66A SM-1MR Blk IV misses.

The AS-4 Kitchen hits the British Envoy, causing heavy damage.

Richard L. Page fires a SAM at the second inbound missile, and misses again.

British Envoy is hit and sinks.

More Vampires are being launched, and even after several hit, the missile count is still twenty.
It's an unending unstoppable stream of death
As four Kitchens fly over the Richard L. Page, it managed to get off two shots, but both miss by a mile.

BP British Pride dies next.

Missile count is nineteen as three missiles are launched to replace the four that took out British Pride.

SS Atlantic Conveyor explodes as two missiles hit her.
The Vampires just keep piling up
MV Bright Field is targeted by five AS-4 Kitchens. The first three run out of energy and crash into the sea two miles short of hitting her. But it doesn't matter. The last two blow her to smithereens.

SS Aegean Breeze explodes.

One AS-4 Kitchen decides to put Richard L. Page out of its misery, diving straight down on the frigate and exploding it.

At this point there are only two ships from the convoy left, the MV Camelot and the MV Clipper Sun. There are five utterly useless escort ships, but the Kitchens are smart enough to ignore them. And there are fourteen Vampires still inbound.

Two Kitchens head for the MV Clipper Sun, and destroy her.

With few options left, the remaining Vampires start searching the ocean for something worthy of their attention. They pointedly ignore the escorts, after all, it's not like they're threats. Despite this, one decides to target the Charles F. Adams, and amazingly, the destroyer's jammer succeeds in spoofing the missile.

Two Kitchens focus on the MV Camelot, and just like that, the entire convoy, that is, every single ship in it, is destroyed.
The convoy that simply must get through...doesn't
A single Vampire targets USS Talbot and the Talbot shoots it down with a RIM-66A, the first hit of the day. Too little too late.

USS Charles F. Adams has two Kitchens targeting it, and it fires a total of seven RIM-66As, all of which miss. One of the Kitchens then malfunctions, and amazingly, the second Kitchen is taken out by a 5-inch gun at extreme close range. The Adams leads a charmed life...too bad it could not help any of the ships it was supposed to protect.

Soon after, another Sea King crashes into the sea, out of fuel.

140427Z A Zulu IV SSK is sunk, but it is essentially meaningless.

234718Z The luck of the USS Charles F. Adams runs out, as out of nowhere it is hit by a torpedo. ASW assets are scarce now.

September 20, 1975 0847Z The surviving ships from the convoy, USS Talbot, USS Barry, USS Valdez, and USS Orleck, all make it into the safe haven.  Soon after, the HMS Talbot detects Backfires inbound, over Ireland, no less. I guess I RAF is all busy elsewhere.

I do have a pair of A-4s ready to intercept, but predictably, they're both near Bingo fuel and will not be able to. It looks like the war is going badly enough that the UK cannot protect even the British Isles from enemy bombers, which now fly over it with impunity.
Backfires over Ireland without a care in the world...
And with that, I'll call this disaster of a mission over.

Your current score is -1330

This mission was a classic example of how if you make a mistake, you pay for it hard. My mistake in this case was interpreting my Intelligence, in this case the mission briefing, too literally:  This is what I read:

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...

I interpreted this as: "Focus on the sub threat. I might have to deal with a few recon Bears, and perhaps a Badger will launch a handful missiles at me, but the key thing I have to worry about is those Bears getting a fix on my position and calling in the subs to swarm me."

But I didn't notice the fine print lurking further down in the briefing (emphasis mine):

Enemy Forces
Air: Tu-95 Bear (recon), Tu-22M Backfire (strike), Tu-16 Badger (Recon and ELINT versions)

The briefers sneaked those Backfires in there!  First they say "there are no strike aircraft on Iceland at present" and then they casually slip in that Backfires are a threat, and hide the mention between two recon planes. I suppose the intel guy could try to weasel out of it saying that what he told me was technically true, and that the strike aircraft weren't on Iceland at present (i.e., mission start), but were merely en route from the Kola peninsula. They landed, refueled, and launched the strike as soon as my location was pinpointed. I guess.

In any event, enough complaining. My fear was that the recon craft would update the subs about my position, and I wasn't even thinking about a threat from strike aircraft. so I decided to keep my emissions quiet, as I didn't want to broadcast my position and make their job easier. This turned out to be a mistake, as very soon after the scenario started, a Bear appeared directly over my fleet.  Soon after that, two satellite passes nearly overhead made me think that the game was up. Therefore there was no harm in sending up my AEW aircraft, not that it made any difference. And then, starting late at night, the Backfires started showing up. (I didn't even realize they were Backfires at first, I thought they were Badgers!  But then when the massive raid showed up, I finally figured it out)

I had already put enough work into the AAR that I wasn't about to redo it until I "get it right". If I screw up massively, then the AAR will show it. But what I should have done in this mission was read the briefing more carefully, then been more aggressive with my air defense.  I should have parked my CAP at least 200nm north of my fleet, with the AEW nearby, and taken out every recon plan I detected. My fear was that if I put my AEW, the Soviets would then know where my fleet was by the reasoning: "it's right behind the AEW, duh." But I guess just knowing the location of the AEW isn't enough information to launch a strike--at least for Command's AI, so I would have been well advised to have had the AEW up there from the beginning.

I do have to say that as this mission began to fall apart, I was feeling bitter, thinking that the mission was impossible. Prior to the scenario I was feeling that I was at least somewhat knowledgeable about naval warfare, and this was a wakeup call.

Command is a simulation and its scenarios are designed to explore real world problems--not be "fair." And it teaches you some severe lessons. If you want to survive, you can't take anything for granted. You need to do it right, every single time, or you will pay the price.

Post Script:  I replayed the mission seven times before I finally succeeded. In one of those attempts I succeeded in shooting down no less than twenty Backfires, and I still lost.  In the end, I had to station my E-1B Tracer 450 miles north of my convoy, and the A-4s flying CAP 230 miles out. No recon plane got within 250 miles of my convoy, and the Backfires were still showing up. So then I discovered that there was not one SSV Mayak intelligence ship, but two. I destroyed one over 200nm away from my fleet, but the second one came within 100 miles...and the Backfires came and wiped me out. Again. So I had to resume from a previous save, deliberately seek out the SSV Mayak, and kill it much farther out. Only then was I able to continue without the Backfires showing up. How the Mayak detected my emissions-quiet fleet from more than 100nm away is a mystery to me.

By comparison, the submarines were a non-issue. The name of the scenario should have been "Don't Get Detected," rather than "Damn the Torpedoes."  What torpedoes?  Ultimately this scenario taught me the harsh lesson of "Never trust Military 'Intelligence'" and "Kill everything within 200nm of you, if not farther."

Losses and Expenditures (from original play through)

SIDE: Soviet Union

3x Tu-95RT Bear D
3x PL- 613 Whiskey V
1x PLA-671RT Victor II [Syomga]
1x PLARK-670 Charlie I [Skat]
1x PLA-627A November [Kit]
1x SSV Mayak [Pr.502, ASW Mod]
1x PL-641B Tango [Som]
1x PLARK-675 Echo II
1x PL-611 Zulu IV

4x SS-N-7 Starbright [P-70 Ametist]
2x 23mm AM-23 x 2 Burst [50 rnds]
1x 23mm AM-23 x 2 Burst [50 rnds]
4x Generic Flare Salvo [4x Cartridges, Single Spectral]
1x 53-57 Pattern [NATO 53-56]
21x Generic Acoustic Decoy
16x SS-N-3a Shaddock [P-6, ASM]
50x AS-4 Kitchen A Mod 2 [Kh-22M ASM]
8x SS-N-9 Siren [P-120 Malakhit]
6x 53-65K WH


2x SH-2D Seasprite
1x FF 1052 Knox
3x E-1B Tracer
2x Commercial Tanker - General Purpose [20,000t DWT]
2x Commercial Container Vessel - Panamax [4,500 TEU, 65,000t DWT]
3x Commercial RO/RO Vessel [18,000t DWT]
1x FF 1040 Garcia
2x Commercial Dry-Bulk Carrier - Handymax Size [45,000t DWT]
18x S-2G Tracker
6x A-4E Skyhawk
8x SH-3D Sea King
1x CVS 16 Lexington
1x Wasp HAS.1
1x F 12 Achilles [Type 12I Leander Batch 3 Broad Beam]
2x Commercial Tanker - Large Range 1 [75,000t DWT]
1x FFG 1 Brooke
2x Commercial LNG/LPG Tanker [18,000t DWT]
1x DDG 2 Charles F. Adams

1015x AN/SSQ-47 Julie Active Range-Only
552x AN/SSQ-41A Jezebel LOFAR
128x AN/SSQ-50B CASS
48x AN/SSQ-2 Jezebel LOFAR


Siph_Horridus said...

Ouch that hurt! Those Kitchens really make a mess. Really enjoyed this series.

Dan Eldredge said...

Thanks! There's more on the way!