You're right, I did some digging and a look at a 1941 Soviet railnet shows the infrastructure in the Kola Peninsula clearly cannot support heavy weapons - or anything more than a battalion really - in the area. Historically, German planners for Barbarossa pauperized the Northern front, and it was repeatedly starved of reinforcements. That was a theme throughout the entire war, and I doubt that stance could realistically change even in an alternate timeline. At least until US Lend Lease dramatically increased with their inclusion in the war in December 1941, or expanded Finnish involvement in the war.
I'm talking about this aspect of Archengelsk, because from a gameplay perspective, the potential results of increased German commitment would greatly effect the entire Eastern Front over time, and therefore holds great speculative interest. I also would like to play a game where the results of my hypotheticals are as accurate as possible. For that, I welcome your criticism.
There are two alternatives for achieving the same objectives that I can gather: one would be near-fully commensurate in effect, while the other would be partially commensurate for Axis objectives in blockading Arctic Lend Lease.
The first alternative would be for the Axis to control the ports on the western coast of the White Sea and convert them into submarine bases. This is to perform a high intensity blockade by harassing merchant shipping inside the White Sea and laying mines in the vicinity of Archengelsk and the White Sea gateway to the straits. German X Type submarines come to mind as best for the role of mining the waters, although only 3 would be servicable in 1942. Otherwise more general submarines would fulfill the task.
The two seaports that were capable for this role are located at the towns of Belomorsk and Kandalaksha. Both towns lie along the Murmansk Railway and link with Finnish rail through Petrozavodsk. For Belomorsk, it has a benefit of an accompanying estuary, of a canal that originates from Lake Onega. Axis control of the shores of the canal, north coast of Lake Onega, shores of Svir River, north coast of Lake Ladoga, and the Neva River south of Leningrad (requiring the capture of Leningrad) can facilitate submarine passage from the Gulf of Finland into the White Sea. If unsecured at any point, then more rigourous transport of submarines over rail to the ports is required.
Unfortunately for Axis, the Karelia and Kola regions contain non-karst-type topography, and thus do not have the capability for natural submarine pens. Therefore, the conversion of these two former Soviet naval ports into effective German submarine bases is essential, much as it was for the Germans with the Norwegian ports. If these ports are utilized properly then, I would expect a severe reduction in LL supply entering Arkhangelsk.
The second alternative would be German submarines basing out of the Murmansk seaport. There is also a small chance that German submarines can repair unharassed at an undamaged Polyarny shipyard, a town nearby Murmansk at the Kola River's estuary.
During the summer period of 1941 the British and Soviets conducted a naval campaign in the Barents Sea which resulted in German surface ships being unable to contest the waters. The Brits were able to perform this campaign quickly because of Soviet involvement and the port of Murmansk. However, German submarines continued to operate around the Barents Sea and sink convoys up until the last week of the War in Europe. The primary effect a German submarine base in Murmansk has is that it is significantly closer for conducting naval operations near the White Sea, compared to other historical submarine bases.
As an example, during the Battle of the Atlantic, The three most prominent German submarine bases in the Arctic were located at Bergen, Trondheim, and Narvik. Narvik is the closest to the entrance of the White Sea, yet it is still a 1,600km journey until its destination assuming it is hugging the shorelines. Murmansk has an approximate 500km distance to the same destination. Using the cruise speed of the Type VII submarine - the most common German submarine - the distance is the difference between a two day journey and a fifteen hour journey if traveling at surface speed. Double the journey time if there are any delays, or submerging occurs along the route.
An additional effect is that the Allies are restricted to basing primarily in the White Sea. As discussed previously, a major aid to Allied operations in clearing German ships from the Barents Sea was the fact that they were primarily based in Murmansk. Sailing out of the White Sea plays into German submarine strengths when tracking and ambushing convoys, and makes Allied patrol distance longer.
Despite the newfound German blue water advantage, this is a much less optimal strategy than a White Sea submarine strategy for naval operations. This is because German submarines are not known to have ever crossed through the Barents-White Strait. Such a crossing would likely have been a death sentence for any submarines with Allied patrol ships in the area, much like the Straits of Gibraltar. Even with a closer naval port convoy raiding would be an opportunistic, porous blockade, which I would label light in intensity. Still, German positioning of the Barents Sea would be much stronger than normal and therefore have a noticeable effect on LL coming into Arkhangelsk.
This is why I think that Archengelsk is a reasonable blockade target in WitE 2.
My comments are getting a little too studious for my liking, so I will refrain from commenting much on the thread. If there is anything you would like to expand on or contest, please PM me.
< Message edited by TunganNinja -- 1/24/2019 10:48:59 AM >