The nice thing about the Cold War was that you knew who your enemies were. Not like today where (dare I say it) racial profiling has become un-PC despite the objective reality that our enemies have chosen to operate in the shadows.
But not today…at least in Harpoon3 anyway.
Ralf Koelbach’s “Attacking the Fortress” scenario takes the player back to the height of the NATO vs. Pact standoff. It is 1986 and the World War III has been raging for several weeks now. The Pact is finally about to make its first big assault against the GIUK line. All NATO knows is that a big push is about to begin and that the Pact has an interest in Iceland.
For those of you who frequent the IRC channel you will be well aware that my opponent and I have taken issues with each other's doctrine in the past. Contemporary accounts state that a Pact assault against Iceland would not be feasible in the slightest. Personally I believe that the Pact was willing to consider those forces expendable, especially if their main goal (in the strategic sense to capture West Germany and provide a buffer zone for their SSBNs) was accomplished. In any rate, a Pact landing on Iceland would at least delay NATO operations in the Norwegian Sea.
The GIUK line is an array of bases stretching from Iceland, right down to the UK. In this scenario, it’s assumed that the Pact has captured Norway and has the use of their bases there. While I question the ability of the Warsaw Pact to capture all of Norway in a few weeks, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Either way I was faced with a large array of Pact air power facing off against the GIUK forces.
I’m a big believer advance planning so after I discovered how the Pact bases were arrayed then I went about setting up patrols for my aircraft based at Vagar and Saxa Vord. Extended CAP was set up from Keflavik and Reykjavik far beyond Iceland to take advantage of the better radar conditions over the water. RAF bases in the UK were arrayed against Norway.
Sentries were deployed from Stonoway and from Keflavik. The latter aircraft was deployed very forward beyond Iceland but AFTER I made sure the CAP there had cleared the airspace. Turns out there was nothing there.
There is a period of several game hours where the Pact makes a determined attempt against the southern GIUK bases. Losses were heavy on both sides, especially after F-15s from Stonoway and MiG-29s got involved. No AMRAAM in this scenario (it’s 1986 remember) and for some time the actions were quite disorganized. RAF F-4s suffered rather badly when faced against the MiG-29s but the F-15s did well. Against older generation aircraft the RAF gave as good as they got. However in the end they still lost over 75% of their strength, this includes several F-4s caught on the ground on Leuchars after Fencers paid a visit and I was unable to muster enough CAP in time.
After several hours however losses were to the point that both sides were reduced to making interceptions based on information from the Sentry’s and ground radar. I was sweating Pact long-range bomber assets throughout the whole game. I was actually surprised that they didn’t attack the bases at Vagar and Saxa Vord. Not only does these bases support aircraft, there is also a long-range air search radar at Saxa Vord. It turned out that the surviving F-4s at those bases (2 each) played very pivotal roles in the second half of the game.
Soviet Long Range Aviation did make an appearance however. They were picked up by NATO radar and aircraft were vectored in. They were supported in the typical fashion with Bears sniffing ahead and Badgers providing jamming. They were initially gunning for the small NATO SAG that was deploying south of Iceland but the combination of strict EMCON and the forward deployed CAP from both Stonoway and the bases on Iceland managed to shoot down all but one Backfire before they launched their AS-4s. The single Tu-22M that did launch only fired 2 Kitchens and these were easily dealt with by a barrage of SAMs from the ships. The SAG even got on the scoreboard itself when it’s position was given away by a Bear that radiated too close to the SAG, much to it’s sorrow.
However some time later (perhaps 2 game hours later) while I was busy dealing with the Pact SAG (which I will cover below) a flight of Backfires managed to go undetected by me and launched inertial guided AS-4s against Keflavik. My CAP being mostly out of position was unable to play a major role in the defense of the base. Knowing that I couldn’t stop them from launching I scrambled as many aircraft as I could. Several F-15s and F-4s were able to launch Sparrows against the incoming Kitchens and HAWK batteries at both Keflavik and Reykjavik were also able to contribute, knocking out about half the missiles. The Kitchens blew away a hangar and damaged a runway. Several aircraft were also lost including some valuable P-3s that were configured for anti-shipping duties.
This takes us to my own long-range assets. I used the P-3s and Nimrods I had on hand more in the recon role with a secondary ‘on call’ ASW mission. While the secondary mission was effected several times, most of the ASW stuff was handled by my submarines. The recon role proved to be the most important of the game and these aircraft provided valuable early emissions warning over the North Sea and east of Iceland.
Submarine action was initially heavy but tapered off after several hours. USS Dallas destroyed an Echo class SSGN using a pair of Mk48s in the first few minutes of the game. FNS Rubis vectored a P-3 on the single Papa class SSGN and destroyed it with a single Mk46. Finally, a RAF Nimrod sank a November detected by USS Providence at long range. However due to my desire to keep this valuable asset quiet from Soviet sonars, I used a Nimrod to attack. Unfortunately, the Nimrod also attracted the attention of MiG-29s that appeared from somewhere near Orland and destroyed it. All detections were made by the submarines passive sonar systems with localization and attack (except in the case of the Echo sunk by Dallas) made by P-3s using sonobuoys.
The contribution of USS Providence has to be mentioned here. An improved Los Angeles class submarine, it had the Mk45 VLS system carrying TLAMs and TASMs. Using these I was able to attack and supress the Pact airbases in the northeastern section of the map. I’m not sure just how successful they were but after the attacks there was a marked decrease in Pact air operations in the eastern Norwegian Sea so they must have damaged runways or destroyed hangars at the least.
Providence also vectored an ‘on call’ Nimrod to a November and fought a personal battle with a Kresta II class cruiser that was patrolling off Orland. The sub initially damaged the Kresta using Harpoon missiles and closed in for the kill with Mk48s. I could have used the TASMs the sub was carrying but by this time, I had other uses for those long-range weapons. Providence closed with little difficulty and launched a pair of Mk48s, both of which missed. (!!!) I then had the sub maneuver into attack position again for another pair of Mk48s but my first attack attracted the attention of a Bear ASW aircraft that made an attack run using AT-1 torpedoes. Abandoning the attack, Providence then went deep and ran at flank speed for about 25 nm while I scrambled the last 2 F-4s from Saxa Vord to intercept and destroy the Bear. This done, the F-4s went back to Saxa Vord for a pint and Providence turned south for another attack. The Kresta, creeping along at 5 knots never picked up the incoming torpedoes until they were quite close. As damaged as she was, she could only make 18 knots but this still prevented the first Mk48 from hitting the ship. The second one destroyed the cruiser a minute later.
Four Mk48s and two Harpoons isn’t what I would consider a cost-effective kill. However the ship had to go because the last thing Providence needed was a Kresta breathing down her neck while she launched TLAMs at Orland at Vaernes.
Providence’s final contribution to the scenario was the emissions they picked up from Badger and Bear aircraft supporting the Backfire strikes against NATO forces. Again the F-4s from Vagar and Saxa Vord played a pivotal role in intercepting and destroying these aircraft.
Meanwhile, over the North Sea, RAF F-4s and USAF F-15s engaged what amounted to several regiments of Soviet aircraft in what turned out to be a battle for air superiority. The Soviets threw MiG-21s, MiG-23s and MiG-29s against the NATO aircraft while Fencers roared in at low level to attack the bases on the UK. For the most part NATO held it’s own, mainly due to effective ELINT from Nimrods and Sentries on patrol. However the numbers started to tell after a while and two groups of Fencers got through the Leuchars BARCAP and launched ASMs with bombs following shortly thereafter on the base. Again another hangar was blown away and with it at least 3 F-4s that were down for refueling and re-arming and another runway had craters in it. I was forced to take F-15s from Stonoway and several surviving F-4s and use them to re-enforce the BARCAP east of Leuchars. These were instrumental in defending RAF Lossiemouth from a third group of Fencers, shooting them all down.
Lossiemouth was an important base. It contained my primary striking arm to use against the Soviet SAG, eight Buccaneer aircraft armed with Sea Eagle missiles. The defense of this base was vital to the entire mission and my BARCAP deployment reflected this. The Bucs were going to be busy as the Soviet SAG was picked up by emissions from P-3s on recon from Iceland. The SAG was quickly localized and the Bucs were launched soon after.
It was very suprising to see the Soviet SAG that close to Iceland. It was this development that made be deploy the second Sentry from Keflavik to a position beyond the East Coast of the island. From there, still sheltered by BARCAP, it provided valuable sensor information on the Soviet group. However the one thing I couldn’t get was class type because the Soviet group was blacked out. This meant having to get close and forcing the Soviets to light off. This I accomplished at the cost of a P-3 which didn’t evade the incoming SA-N-7 from a Sovremennyy class destroyer. However I did discover a sizable ASW screen
Another contribution to figuring out the SAGs disposition was provided by the submarine HMS Tireless. The submarine, fortunately close to the group at it’s time of detection, was able to use it’s sonar to get a fix on several class types, including an Alligator and a Ropucha and several ASW ships including a few Udaloys and a Sverdlov class gun cruiser. Tireless, then reloaded her tubes with Harpoon missiles and conducted an attack against the Soviet Amphibious Group. One Harpoon was shot down by AA defenses of the escort force but an Alligator took one hit while a Ropucha took two Harpoons in the side sinking it. With this accomplished, and all her Harpoons expended, Tireless reloaded with Tigerfish and proceeded to weave her way through the Soviet escorts with the intent of getting some more amphibious action. After evading the starboard ASW picket ship (I think a Sovremennyy ) I then discovered that Tireless wouldn’t be able to make it past the inner ring of escorts unless she cleared a hole. The risk was high, an attack of any kind INSIDE the formation would bring the hammers of hell down on the RN sub. However risk of destruction while making a hole for other NATO subs to enter was in the job description so I picked a Udaloy and fired two Tigerfish at her. Knowing what was to come, Tireless went deep and jacked up the speed to flank.
About a minute later, contact with Tireless was lost. There was a brief message saying there was a torpedo in the water but I never saw the sub take a hit.
Both Tigerfish torpedoes hit and sank the Udaloy.
Having discovered the partial disposition of the Soviet SAG and with Bucs in the air waiting for targeting info (fuel waits for no one) I decided to go with what I had on hand. Taking a guess based on the formation layout and the location of the Alligator and Ropucha attacked by the now sunken Tireless, I targeted the Bucs Sea Eagle missiles on what I considered to be the group of amphibious ships. Very presently, 32 ASMs were skimming the surface towards the Soviet ships. Two missiles targeted per ship.
My guess was correct, I had targeted the amphibious ships but what I hadn’t counted on was that the escort dispositions would be changed to cover not the carrier Kiev (which was in the front of the formation) but the ‘phibs themselves. A Kirov class cruiser appeared out of nowhere and started firing SA-N-6s against the incoming ASMs. The emissions of the Grumble system were very distinctive and I wasted no time in turning the Bucs around and heading back for Lossiemouth.
There was several hectic minutes as the Kirov’s SAMs, accompanied by SA-N-7, -9s and -4s shot down most of the Sea Eagles. There were at least three ships hit but none fatally.
While the Soviets were dealing with the horde of ASMs, my BARCAP from Iceland (both F-4s and F-15s) moved in to deal with the Soviet aircraft. A furball then developed as the NATO aircraft engaged Forgers from the Kiev shooting down 6 for the loss of an F-15 to an AA-8. South of the group, RAF F-4s from Vagar engaged and destroyed several more Forgers in the rear of the Soviet SAG.
With the Bucs back at Lossiemouth (no losses), and requiring six more hours to rearm, the onus now fell on NATO subs South of Iceland to attack the SAG. All the subs carried SSMs of differing flavors and these were used to the utmost. USS Dallas fired off four TASMs at the carrier Kiev, three of which hit the ship. USS Sturgeon launched four more TASMs at the outer escort force of two Kresta II class CGs. This resulted in one hit on the northern cruiser, slowing it to 18 knots.
Both submarines then went deep and sprinted towards the soviet group to get within range of the Harpoon missiles they carried.
FNS Rubis, deep and heading towards the Soviet SAG, had picked up a Papa and vectored in a P-3 to sink it. That done, Rubis was about to go deep when the P-3 picked up a small surface contact that turned out to be a Soviet AGI trawler sniffing around for NATO units. Rubis, being somewhat beyond the range of her SM.39 ASMs dove and headed towards the AGI with the idea to sink her. This caused the sub to lose contact for several hours but when the sub surfaced again, the AGIs uncertainty zone was small enough for me to try a SSM attack. Both missiles were fired in BOL mode and both missed. Rubis then proceed back towards the Soviet SAG.
The AGI was later destroyed by 20mm cannon from a flight of F-15s out of Keflavik.
USS Narwhal, a modified Sturgeon class SSN, was by herself north of Saxa Vord. When word came of the Soviet SAG, she went deep and reloaded her tubes with TASMs. She then launched at extreme range but alas her missiles were soaked up by Soviet SAMs.
In the mean time, Dallas and Sturgeon continued to close the range and NATO aircraft out of Iceland and Vagar continued to pick off the air cover of the Soviet SAG. The Buccaneers were still reloading and needed a few more hours. As luck would have it, the second ASM strike of the day would coincide with the arrival of the first NATO subs (in this case, USS Dallas).
Dallas was deep and motoring along at 25 knots. Risky but I wanted the subs to get there as soon as possible. Considering that I had 2 more subs to come plus Narwhal now deep again at flank speed (after launching her TASMs) I kept Dallas at full speed.
Dallas’ Harpoons were targeted against the two Kresta’s that formed the outer escort. All four missiles were soaked up my SA-N-4s from the cruisers so the sub reloaded with Mk48s and closed the range.
By this time, the Bucs from Lossiemouth were back in the air. This time, having a good fix on the soviet disposition of ships, I looped the Bucs around to the east of Vagar to attack the Soviet SAG from the rear. This time I was more circumspect regarding the targeting of the ASMs. Sixteen were tasked against the Kirov while the other sixteen went after eight ships of the amphibious group. A flight of F-4s provided TARCAP and shot down three Forgers and a Helix for the loss of one Phantom.
Results were impressive. Of the seven ships hit in the amphibious group, five were sunk. The Kirov came through the attack but suffered two hits out of the 16 missiles tasked against her.
Right on time, Dallas closed the range and fired two Mk48s against each Kresta II of the outer escort ring. Dallas, very prudently given the fate of HMS Tireless, went deep, turned tail and ran for her life. No less than five Soviet helos then appeared and started dropping torpedoes against the hapless NATO sub. How Dallas evaded this I’ll never know but nevertheless she did and after a spring of some 35 nm, she turned around to have another go. Both of Dallas’ targets were sunk in the attack.
USS Sturgeon then came shallow and fired four Harpoons at the carrier Kiev. None of which hit.
Dallas, somewhat shaken by her near death, caused me to give her a little help for her next attack. Scraping together some aircraft from other missions, I sent them to take on the remaining Soviet aircraft. For the loss of another F-4, NATO aircraft destroyed 4 Helix’s and 3 more Forgers (how many bloody Forgers did Kiev have anyway?). This cleared the way for both Dallas and Rubis, however Dallas had only four Mk48s remaining so her contribution would have been limited.
But what a contribution she made. Dallas got in close and fired her last four Mk48s against a Udaloy and Sovremennyy. Both Mk48s targeted against the Udaloy missed as did one on the Sovremennyy. However the fourth Mk48 missed the Sovremennyy and struck the Kirov class cruiser, sinking her.
Dallas then ran like hell away from the Soviet SAG. She had tempted fate enough for one day.
The submarine Rubis the came shallow and fired two SM.39’s at the Sovremennyy that Dallas missed. Both missiles were destroyed by point defense. Rubis then closed the range and fired off four L7 torpedoes against a Udaloy class DDG and several ships remaining from the amphibious group. The Udaloy and a cargo ship were sunk. This fulfilled my victory conditions that presently came up soon after.
HMS Tireless – Trafalgar class SSN
22 x RAF F-4 Phantoms
10 x USAF F-15s (both A and C models)
1 x RAF Nimrod lost off Orland
3 x P-3 Orions in the AS-4 attack on Keflavik
1 x P-3 Orion on recon of the Soviet SAG
12 x SM-2 SAMs (used to shoot down two incoming AS-4s)
2 x SM-1 SAMs
2 x Masurca SAMs
2 x Sea Sparrow SAMs
16 x HAWK SAMs (defending against AS-4 attack on Iceland)
121 x AIM-7 Series AAMs (mostly South-East of Iceland)
122 x Sky Flash AAMs (mostly over the North Sea)
91 x AIM-9 Series AAMs
25 x 20mm M61 bursts
16 x Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles
8 x Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missiles
64 x Sea Eagle ASMs
26 x Harpoon SSM (sub launched)
4 x SM-39 Exocet (sub launched)
6 x DIFAR Sonobuoys
2 x CAMBS Sonobuoys
14 x Mk48 Torpedoes
4 x L7 Torpedoes
3 x Stingray Torpedoes (attacking November class SSN)
2 x Mk46 NEARTIP Torpedoes (Attacking Papa class SSGN)
Warsaw Pact Losses:
9 x MiG-29 Fighters
24 x MiG-23 Fighters
16 x MiG-21 Fighters
25 x Su-24 Fencer Bombers
22 x Tu-22M Backfire Bombers
6 x Tu-16 Badger ECM Aircraft
2 x Tu-16 Badger Recon Aircraft
2 x Tu-142 Bear ASW Aircraft
5 x Tu-95 Bear Recon Aircraft
4 x IL-38 May ASW Aircraft
8 x Yak-41 Forger Carrier Based Fighters
12 x Ka-27 Helix ASW Helicopters
4 x Ka-25 Hormone ASW/Targeting Helicopters
1 x Kirov Class Battle-Cruiser
3 x Kresta II Class ASW Cruisers
3 x Ropucha Class Landing Ships
3 x Alligator Class Landing Ships
1 x AGI Trawler
2 x Cargo Ships
1 x Echo II Class SSGN
1 x November Class SSN
1 x Papa Class SSGN
1 x Aircraft Revetment
1 x Soviet Radar Site
Warsaw Pact Expenditures
10 x AA-10 Alamo Series AAMs
13 x AA-7 Apex Series AAMs
24 x AA-8 Aphid Series AAMs
14 x AA-2 Atoll Series AAMs
6 x 23mm Air Cannon Bursts
22 x 30mm Air Cannon Bursts
9 x 37mm Gun Bursts
5 x AK-276 76mm Gun Rounds
43 x AK-130 130mm Gun Rounds
69 x 57mm Gun Rounds (all types)
21 x AK-100 100mm Gun Rounds
17 x AK-630 30mm CIWS Bursts
2 x AS-13 Kingbolt ASMs
70 x FAB-500 Series 500kg Bombs
22 x AS-4 Kitchen (both ASM and Land Attack Types)
55 x SA-N-9 Grinch SAMs
96 x SA-N-6 Grumble SAMs (IIRC the entire deck load of a Kirov class CG)
68 x SA-11 Gadfly SAMs
12 x SA-N-4 Gecko SAMs
33 x SA-N-3 Goblet SAMs
131 x RGB Series Sonobuoy
11 x APR-2 Torpedoes
6 x VTT-1 Torpedoes
1 x AT-3 Torpedoes
Some thoughts on this scenario.
I’m a big believer in starting a scenario as early as possible. If I could get away with starting a scen from the dock I would. In this case, the Soviet SAG was too close to Iceland. IMHO, it should have been situated farther back (I’m being vague here on purpose to avoid giving too much away).
Finally, I would have preferred a better naming scheme for NATO facilities. On several occasions I had lost track of the scenario because I had to find out which “Runway 8K Feet:” was damaged in an air attack. Renaming the runway to “Leuchars East Runway” or something similar to that would suffice.
Other than those issues (most of which are minor and simple to fix) this is a very nicely balanced scenario. The NATO technological advantage was very pronounced here but it also shows what might have been if the NATO powers hadn’t increased defense spending in the early 1980’s to the same extent that they did. IMHO, this scenario also disproves the inability of the Pact to conduct a major operation against Iceland. AI issues aside, I’m pretty confident that I could have accomplished the Pact mission given the forces available.
Difficulty – 5 out of 10 – This middle of the road scenario for players that wish to develop their skills.
Action – 7.5 out of 10 – Combat is fairly constant but slow down towards the end.
Size – 8 out of 10 – I played this on a PII 400MHz with 128MB of RAM and was able to play at 30 to 1 compression when I wanted. However the action was so constant that I rarely got above 15 to 1 compression.
Overall – 7 out of 10 – This is a very nicely done scenario but could use a few tweaks as I mentioned above. The action is fairly constant until the last few game hours but the biggest issue is the lack of attacks against NATO bases in the UK and Norwegian Sea. Doing this would increase the difficulty of the scenario and it’s size but I think there’s room for it.