The Buccaneers of the Ark Royal CVBG successfully attacked Soviet airfields with WE.177 nuclear bombs - but the carrier group did not survive the operation. Cornered off Bear Island between multiple Soviet submarines and subjected to a barrage of nuclear-tipped torpedoes and cruise missiles, the Ark Royal group has been eliminated.
Now on station to the north-east of Jan Mayen Island are the Saratoga and John F. Kennedy carrier groups. Their primary role now is to support NATO land forces to stem and turn back the Soviet units present in the north of Narvik.
Two airfields are now in Soviet hands, Banak and Bardufoss, providing critical air support to their land operations.
Norwegian Army units have engaged in fierce delaying actions to slow down every step of the invaders' advance. The defending Norwegian brigades have been decimated by continuous Soviet attacks, and the only remaining viable formation is the hollowed-out 15th Infantry Brigade supported by USMC, Royal Marine and Dutch Marine units.
This polyglot tactical group and the remains of a few tank units with M48 tanks and M113 APCs are holding the line 20 miles from Narvik; but they are short on men, equipment and supplies. The next big Soviet push may well dislodge them out of the area altogether. To prevent collapse of the front, the Saratoga and John F. Kennedy CVBG's have been tasked to support these units.
The two carrier groups, tied down to a finite area by necessity (to support the ground troops) instead of roaming free in the open sea, could hardly go unnoticed by Soviet surveillance. Numerous Tu-16 Badger and Tu-22M Backfire bomber squadrons have been redeployed from the quiet Southern Front to nearby airfields. These fresh and unhurt units, trained and equipped for the task of destroying NATO carrier groups, will now attempt to do just that.
Can the carrier groups protect themselves while also holding the line in Norway?
Orders for Cmdr NATO Forces
At present the 15th Infantry Brigade and the remains of 3 Cdo Brigade are holding the line 20 miles from north of Narvik. With the few remaining tank units they are attempting to stop the Soviet horde from taking Narvik.
The Saratoga and John F. Kennedy CVBGs have been tasked to support the 15th Infantry Brigade by suppression of Soviet mech-infantry and armoured units in the surrounding area.
Bardufoss with MiG-23 Flogger and Banak with MiG-21 Fishbed aircraft are also in Soviet hands and will need to be neutralized.
Soviet naval and air units are also on high alert to stop the transit of both CVBGs to the area of operations.
|Recon imagery of Banak air base|
Surface : Two surface groups remain undetected in the area around Spitsbergen.
Air : SNA and PVO units known to be on high alert, they are as follows:
- Tu-16Z Badger A Tanker
- Tu-16P Badger H Chaff Layer
- Tu-16P Badger J Jammer
- Tu-95MR Bear E Photo Recon
- Tu-95RT Bear D MRR
- Tu-22M Backfire B Strike
- Tu-16K-10-26P Badger C Mod Strike
- MiG-23BN Flogger H Attack
- MiG-21SM Fishbed J Fighter
Ground Forces : 37th Motorised Rifle Division, with supporting armour and artillery.
SAM-AAA : SA-6, SA-9 and AAA systems reported around Bardufoss and Banak airfields, Red Army units with AAA and SA-7 SAMs.
Carrier Strike Group One : USS Saratoga CV, USS Albany CG, USS Richmond K. Turner CG, USS Sampson DDG, USS Lawrence DDG, USS Morton DD,USS Garcia FFH, USS Truett FFH, USS Detroit AOE, USS San Diego AFS.
Carrier Strike Group Three : USS John F. Kennedy CV, USS California CGN, USS Wainwright CG, USS Mitscher DDG, USS Brumby FFH, USS Francis Hammond FFH, USS Neosho AO, USS Mount Baker AE.
- 55th SRW (RC-135 Rivet Joint)
- 117th TRS-ANG (RB-57)
- 1 Sqn (GR.3 Harrier)
- 54 Sqn (GR.1 Jaguar)
1. Conduct strikes against Bardufoss and Banak airfields.
2. Once located, engage and destroy the 37th Motorized Division and supporting units.
3. Locate and destroy Red Banner Fleet units in your area.
4. Detect and neutralize Soviet submarines in your area.
1. Saratoga and John F. Kennedy carrier groups to take up station as per patrol boxes.
2. Nuclear Release authorised on ASW and AAW weapons, NOT on strike weapons.
3. Conduct operations as per Mission Briefing.
4. Use Recon and ELINT assets at RAF Mildenhall to locate Soviet forces.
Command and EMCON
Command: USS Saratoga
EMCON: alpha-limited emissions.
This is a daunting mission. So daunting it's hard to know where to begin. I need to support NATO ground forces by locating and destroying the Soviet 37th Motorized Division. That's easy enough. But I also need to conduct strikes on Bardufoss and Banak airfields. Okay, more strikes is fine. But I also have to worry about Soviet submarines. That goes with the territory. Soviet subs are everywhere, all the time. But I also have to worry about two Soviet surface groups. Which undoubtedly I'll have to destroy if I find them. My attack aircraft are going to be working overtime, and to manage it all, so will I. But then, the icing on the cake are the "Numerous Tu-16 Badger and Tu-22M Backfire bomber squadrons have been redeployed...to nearby airfields." Groan. Normally, defending a CVBG against Backfires would be a scenario in itself, and surviving is a victory. But no, I have to not only survive, but kick butt all over Norway.
Fortunately I have two CVBGs to do it.
|USS John F. Kennedy and USS Saratoga|
060019Z Before I even begin to plan out the strike, I detect a surface contact, and then shortly after an airborne contact, which turns out to be a Ka-25Ts Hormone B. Perhaps I will have to deal with the Soviet surface forces first.
|Enemy contacts appear|
There are nine MiG-21s flying near Bardufoss. I launch a Recon F-8 Crusader from Saratoga to head near Bardufoss in the hopes of detecting their ground forces, and also a Harrier GR.1 from Evenes Air Base to do the same. As soon as I have detected the ground forces, I can launch strikes from Evenes and Bodo.
I lose contact with the MiG-21s, and it almost looked like they were heading northwest, towards my carriers. I launch some A-7Es with Shrikes to go for Bodo, and then USS Richmond K. Turner detects a subsurface contact, close to the Saratoga battle group. Things are getting busy very quickly.
|Things are getting busy...|
063026Z My recon Harrier near Bardufoss picks up some enemy forces, but then is fired upon by SAMs.
|SAMs are launched at my Harrier|
Near the Saratoga battle group, one of my Sea Sprites drops on the subsurface contact, which turns out to be a Zulu IV submarine. At nearly the same time, my F-14s launch missiles against a Bear E and a Hormone.
The second torpedo kills the Zulu IV SSK.
|The Zulu IV is sunk.|
My E-2C Hawkeyes get on station, and I light off their radars. My earlier suspicions about the MiG-21s are correct, as I detect large amounts of aircraft to the southeast--apparently they're looking for the carriers. I also detect some surface units near Bear Island.
|The F-14s on CAP attack the inbounds|
064116Z A Phoenix launched from one of my F-15s splashes one MiG-21SM Fishbed J. Soon after another Phoenix downs a Fishbed.
By this time all of my ready F-14s are already airbone, and it will be some 2 hours and 17 minutes before the next group is ready. I will have to rely on Saratoga's F-4 Phantoms to supplement the CAP.
Two more Fishbeds are downed, and the Flagons are moving in from the southeast.
|F-14s deal with the Fishbeds while the Flagons move in.|
070212Z While dodging SAMs, my Recon Harrier is shot down over Bardufoss by a ZSU-57 57mm AA gun.
One of my F-4s from Saratoga shoots down a pair of Fishbeds before heading home.
071946Z It looks like a raid might be shaping up. A Bear D and a Bear E are closing in on my CVBGs, and many other aircraft are behind, but so far it appears they might be Flagons.
|A raid might be shaping up to the east|
|My strike moves in.|
Next inbound are a pair of Jaguars out of Bodo, and a pair of A-7s from Saratoga carrying Walleyes.
|More strikes inbound|
|RAF Jaguar attack aircraft|
Continued in Part Two.