After a few minutes of play here and there I finally have enough done to report the first day's activities...
It's the afternoon of Feb 13 1994, and Soviet high command has given orders to seize the Bosporus in the next 48 hours. I have several groups of amphibious transports underway near the Crimea, numerous missile and torpedo boats screening the formation, and a small but reasonably potent surface group (based around a Slava) which is meaner than anything that NATO has in the area. I also have several submarines (some quite old, and none nuclear) in the area, patrolling and screening, and readying to lay mines on either side of the Bosporus. My air fleet is quite large, with numerous middle-aged fighters and attack planes, a lesser quantity of modern aircraft, a formidable heavy bomber force (mostly set up for level bombing), and a large transport group ready to make a paradrops. I also have a large number of shore-based SSMs in the Crimea, which can reach all the way across the Black Sea, and a useful SAM belt in Bulgaria which includes SA-5s that reach well into Greece.
I’m faced by a large number of NATO fighter aircraft, mostly Greek and Turk, but with the possibility of American activity from bases in the south of Turkey. Many of their aircraft (F-16s, F-5s) only have short range missiles, and I hope that this will give my Flagons and Mig-23s a chance to engage at a distance, before the superior NATO agility can come into play. I’m not expecting major strikes (at least initially) by NATO aircraft, though that may come later. The Turkish surface navy’s larger units are not a real concern, since I have significant sensor and missile overmatch, and I expect to be able to take care of them with little difficulty. Their smaller missile boats may be a problem, if they get loose in a pack at the wrong moment, but if I’m given time to engage them I expect they won’t survive very long either. Their subs could be a real problem if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but so far reports are that many of them are still in base, and the slow transit speed of conventional subs means they may not be able to get in the way in time.
Reports are that political operatives are fomenting a coup in Turkey, which may cause confusion and delay to work in our favour. While I am somewhat sceptical of the coup’s chances (I took choice 1, 100 pts for minor interference), I have asked the political operatives to do what they can to interfere with the Turkish sub force.
The main amphibious forces will tighten up into closer formation and proceed at a slow 12 kt cruise towards the Bosporus, screened by sub chasers and escorts using active sonar, and covered by MPA which will lay a sonobuoy corridor in their path. (I really wish I had some Udaloys, since my sonar is quite weak, but this will have to do.) The SAG will slow to wait for the amphibs to catch up, so it can provide SAM cover, and the missile boats will screen without getting too far ahead. I want to keep them out of range of Turkish missiles for the moment, until I can knock down radars and give my boats freedom to operate without being observed. Hovercraft units wait off the Romanian coast, and the small frigates and patrol boats in the area move to screen them. Their oiler proceeds south towards Bulgaria with an escort, to be ready closer to the beaches when the hovercraft return.
Submarine minelaying will proceed at both ends of the Bosporus, and air-dropped mines will be emplaced at the N end of the strait, and in front of the Turkish sub base on the Black Sea.
Air operations will be initiated by recce flybys before active hostilities commence. Heavy bombers are tasked to make missile attacks on the two F-16 bases south of Constantinople, and ARM attacks on air search radars in northern Turkey and Greece. They will also make heavy conventional attacks on the third F-16 base at Murted, coastal fortifications and troop concentrations near the Bosporus, and the submarine base at Bartin. Attack planes from the USSR will support these efforts, concentrating mostly on the Bosporus area, as well as the airbase attack at Murted, and heavy fighter sweeps will cover activities throughout the area of operation. (Bulgarian attack planes are not ready today and will only be able to add their firepower to the attacks on Feb 14.)
Attack operations will cease after darkness, as aircraft return to base and ready for strikes at dawn on Feb 14. (Although the sim will let me make attacks during the night, in reality my strike aircraft have no useful night vision, and would be ineffective after dark. Therefore I will only be making attacks during daylight hours.) Fighter patrols will continue as needed throughout the night, although I hope to limit the activity to give the crews some rest where possible.
Landings could proceed on Feb 14, although it may be advisable to delay them until Feb 15, depending on the amount of opposition in the area. My main risk here is that the longer I wait, the more forces the Turks can organise and bring to the region, and the more chances they have to recover from the coup. Of course, if I go in immediately, I may not be able to provide effective support in the face of opposition which is not adequately reduced. This decision will have to be made in light of recce reports after the morning strikes on Feb 14.
FEB 13 – First afternoon
Operations begin with mine-carrying Backfires making afterburner dashes to try and reach their target areas before overt hostilities commence, and they make it to the north end of the Bosporus and begin their work without interference, although the Turks must be well aware that something’s going on. The pair of planes assigned to mine the sub base at Bartin have difficulty hitting the tiny target zone. (The sea-floor slopes down so sharply here that the mines, which only work down to 45m depth, have a miniscule area in which they will function.) When it’s clear that they’re not laying an effective pattern, the bombers turn and beat it for home, before the Turks can respond, leaving the base open for operation. Meanwhile, the two Kilos which have been assigned to mine either end of the strait rush at full speed to the shallows, and commence mine-laying there too. This takes longer to accomplish, but their mines work in deeper water, so they can work further out than the Backfires did. Unfortunately, they can’t get into the shallows near the shore (without surfacing), so there are gaps there which patrol boats could easily slip through.
A recce Mig-21 from Bulgaria makes it to the Bosporus coast minutes before hostilities, and flies along offshore getting a useful look at the troops which are already deployed in the area, and it’s clear that there are already a lot of them. Some of them are SAM units too, which will have to be taken care of before ground-attack planes can descend to useful levels. Airborne radar from ship and shore-based helicopters and flying boats also reveals a few merchant ships and Turkish surface combatants already at sea, but these are in range of shore-based Shaddocks, so….
At 13:00 Zulu hostilities commence!
Keys are turned in Shaddock launch bunkers, and missiles are away. The patrol boats east of the Bosporus die with little fanfare. The destroyer to the west neatly destroys the flight of 4 that were sent his way. The bunker commander frowns, reads his copy of Janes, and notes that the destroyer only has an 8-cell SAM launcher, which he is presumably using two per incoming missile. Very well, this time it will be a salvo of 6! Four to use up the SAMs, and two for the destroyer. As predicted the SAMs knock down 4 missiles, but the next two get shot down as well. The bunker commander grinds his teeth, reads further into Janes, and notes the extensive fit of multiple CIWS. This time it’s a salvo of 8, and this time the brave destroyer is finally overwhelmed. Eighteen missiles for a destroyer. The Committee for Internal Budgetary Expenditure Review will not be pleased…
Air launched missile attacks (made from the safety of Romanian airspace) on the two F-16 bases south of Constantinople go well, and the Turks have nothing ready to oppose the incoming shots. All the runways and taxiways are cratered, and the bases should be out of operation for a couple of days. ARM attacks also go well, and many of the forward search radars go down, which may give some cover for our operations. Unfortunately, airborne ELINT assets are reporting the distinct signal of AWACS units deep in the enemy’s rear, so they still have effective radar cover over their own territory.
Air-to-air fighting begins ahead of my incoming attackers. I had hoped the Flagons would be useful against F-16s and F-5s due to the range advantage of their missiles, but the difference is minor, the chance of hitting the agile F-16s is minimal, and by the time the missile gets there the F-16s are usually in range anyways. They kill a few, but the exchange is poor, so I pull them back to screen. The Mig-23s do better, but I have to be careful not to press into short range missile range after the AA-7s are gone (especially if using AA-8s), and of course the Mig-25s and Mig-29s have plenty of range advantage for their initial shots. As expected, then, the few NATO planes that are up to begin with are dealt with reasonably quickly.
This leaves the window open for four aging Blinders, each toting a single massive bomb, to make a low-level attack on the sub-pens at the Bartin Naval Base. During planning I didn’t expect decisive results against the tough target, but after the failure of the minelaying attempt this has taken on new importance. As the bombs burst the crews are astonished to see the entire cliff-face collapse over the tunnel entrance to the pen, trapping (and maybe crushing) all the subs inside. (Miss distance: 4m!) The Turkish AAA gunners open up with a furious barrage, but the tough old Blinders are made of cast iron and horse-shoes, and although chunks get knocked off they keep flying, and all of them make it home again. This stroke of luck is a huge relief, as the subs are what concerned me the most of all of Turkey’s forces.
The next attack to go in is actually composed of Mig-23s from Krasnodar, attacking the F-5 base at Merzifon. The first flights go in at very low level, but get savaged by Rapiers, so the following flights pull up steeply and dump their bombs all over the airfield from above Rapier altitude. The results are not impressive, although the escorts do make a good score against the F-5s that come up to fight. The main benefit is that command issues a new directive – no further low-level attacks against defended airfields! The SAMs and flack are just too intense.
This information comes in time to modify the attack on the F-16 base at Murted. Attack planes with AS-14s manage to destroy the Rapiers from altitude, and the first heavy bomber run manages to lay a good stick of bombs across one of the runways. Then my raid director (in one of the Blinders, which have recce cameras) makes a mistake, and decides to postpone the rest of the strike to allow attack planes to try and deal with some of the AAA. This would help the bombers, allowing them to get lower, but while I’m spending time screwing around it also gives time to the Turks, who start surging F-16s from their shelters. That results in a dangerous situation as my attack planes and bombers scatter to get clear, and my escorts struggle to contain the defenders. The escorts eventually regain control of the air, and the bombers return to close the other runway and taxiway, but it’s a good lesson in not wasting time.
Over at the Bosporus, the first portion of the attack is lead by two flights of Fitters, coming in low to eliminate the two Nike sites using AS-14s. (They pick off a couple of missile boats coming out of Golcuk naval base too.) With those obstacles gone, the main attack focuses on the fortifications and troops at the north end of the strait. Su-24s use their big PGMs on the fortifications, attack planes try and deal with the SAMs and the better AAA using AS-14s from altitude, and the heavy bombers drop sticks of bombs across the major troop concentrations and fortifications. It’s not a well organised attack, and at the end of it some of the main forts still survive in damaged condition, the ground forces are battered, but not entirely eliminated, and the small coastal outposts are almost entirely intact. I think we have killed most of the medium SAMs and 35mm AAA (and sank the destroyer lurking near the south end of the strait), but any defences at the south end are entirely untouched. Recce flights have also detected some armour concentrations in the valley to the east of Golcuk, and those will have to be dealt with too. Clearly a lot of work remains to be done, which makes me think that landing tomorrow morning may not be wise.
As all this activity is ongoing, and the Turkish air-force has been mostly dispersed, the Mig-25s take the opportunity to make a special attack. Two flights of lightly laden Foxbats, carrying only two big missiles, some Aphids, and external tanks, make a deep penetration flight, heading due south towards the American presence which is presumably around Incirlik. Crossing the coast, they light their burners and dash south at top speed, blowing past some F-4s and heading straight for the AWACS. They manage to destroy it and a tanker before the defences can react, and they turn back north. They don’t have the fuel to dash home, and the F-4s are closing in, but they manage to just scrape by, using their reserves for outrunning Sparrows, before landing at the closest available airport (Belbek) on fumes.
In the meantime, one of the Turkish subs surfaces near our fleet and announces that it is neutral and retreating from battle! I guess the political guys really do have their act together after all… I have to hastily mark it neutral, after the I notice my Be-12s all converging on it with hostile intent. I consider sinking it, but for the moment I will monitor it and let it go. Since I was very close to running a convoy right in front of it, it’s a good thing they surrendered.
My own subs are getting some activity too. My Kilo on intelligence duties down in the Aegean Sea gets vectored onto a pair of destroyers, and it manages to sink them both, before resuming its intelligence gathering. For some reason they were not using their active sonar. The Kilo which laid the southern minefield also spots some ships (missile boats out of Golcuk) and manages to kill one and startle another, but that now leaves him with no anti-ship torpedoes. (Most of his magazines had been filled with mines.) Hopefully he’ll not need them.
FEB13 – First night
As evening falls the last of my attack planes and bombers are landing at their bases and preparing loadouts for the next day’s work. With no effective night attack capability, the entire force will stand down for the night, and be ready for a dawn attack tomorrow. Naturally, this makes it the perfect time for HQ to announce that they want us to destroy a Turkish government radio station which has started trying to assert control over the coup situation. Within the hour, no less!
I literally have no ready attack planes, and even if I did they wouldn’t be able to see in the dark to make their attacks. There’s no such thing as a Russian TLAM in my fleet, and nothing’s remotely in range for NGFS. I could try and use a fighter to strafe (if I could see in the dark), but that wouldn’t be enough to destroy the transmitter building. The only thing I have is some of my missile boats, which are equipped with Styx missiles with a ground attack capability. These are promptly given orders to rush for the coast at flank speed, but it takes them far more than an hour to get within range. Before they can arrive the GRU takes care of the station, and I am informed that my lack of support has been noted. The life of a Soviet commander is a never-ending joy!
One of my patrol boats does, however, get sent to bombard and destroy a coastal radar at Zonguldak, which it accomplishes easily, before turning west to engage the next coastal radar at Kefken. Attacking that radar with guns would bring him into range of Harpoons on the Turkish fleet, so he fires a pair of Styx missiles at it before turning for home. They fail to hit anything, which is probably indicative of how well an attack on the radio station would have gone.
The situation along the Greek border has been fairly calm so far, with occasional fighter skirmishes during the afternoon, but now the fighting intensifies dramatically, as more Bulgarian fighters come on-line, and I begin making fighter sweeps. My MiG-23s learn that their all aspect AA-8s (normally a short-ranged weakness against something like an F-16) are a tremendous advantage against F-5s carrying rear-aspect missiles, and they begin aggressively hunting them down, as well as using their AA-7s to fence with F-16s and F-4s. After a little of this, my Aegean Kilo (on ESM duty) begins reporting large numbers of Mirages launching out of southern Greece. Emissions indicate these are mostly Mirage F1s, the attack version of the Mirage. There are at least a dozen of them, but where are they going? To attack my ships?
This prompts me to start launching a significant number of fighters in response, and soon there’s a massive engagement with all sorts of planes over northern Greece and the Sea of Marmora. It turns out the Mirages are loaded with Sidewinders, and aren’t attacking anything in particular, but the fight is on. My MiG-23s try to take AA-7 shots from outside Sidewinder range, while running away from the better missiles on F-4s and Mirage 2000s, and MiG-29s arrive from the coast to try and play their part too. The Mig-21s get into the action, using afterburner dashes to try and pick off planes which are returning home low on fuel, or distracting long-range shooters to lead them astray. (Attempts to take them into combat against alert opponents with all-aspect missiles are futile.) I have to pick my fights, and avoid the temptation to close in, but the engagements generally go in my favour.
Throughout this the enemy’s SAMs are a constant obstacle, particularly the HAWKs on the Greek mainland, and the Nike in Turkey. They don’t actually shoot me down, but I keep getting forced to burner out of the edges of their envelope, and my freedom of maneuver is constantly being restricted. My own SAMs participate too, and my long-range SA-5s actually manage to claim a number of kills. During the day the enemy could see the missiles coming far off and dive to safety below the radar horizon, but now it seems like they don’t see them coming in the dark until it’s much too late, and the SAM crews claim a number of better enemy aircraft this way.
The MiG-25s launch another anti-AWACs raid, and this one is much more carefully supported given how close they came to being caught last time. An Su-15 lure, two flights of MiG-25 fully loaded to kick in the door, two flights of lightly loaded planes to dash in for the kill, two more lightly loaded flights to cover their retreat, and a final flight fully loaded to act as a backstop. Sheesh…. But it worked, killing two F-4s on the way in, getting two AWACS (a second one was coming to relieve the first), missing the tanker but killing a refuelling F-16, and killing two more pursuing F-4s on the way out. There was a brief moment when active radar homing heads were detected in pursuit, but an afterburner dash let my planes outdistance them. Clearly there are angry Americans down south!
Things have calmed down in the air now, as most of my Bulgarian fighters are reloading, and I want my pilots fresh for morning activities. At sea, the Kilo at the south end of the Bosporus detected a creeping SS and used one if its two remaining torpedoes to sink an ancient Tench class sub, which first saw action sinking Japanese freighters in WWII. Surveillance radar flights have also noticed the loss of several merchant ships to the Bosporus minefields, as well as a flotilla of Turkish missile boats passing safely through the hole in the minefield and heading north through the strait. They’re halfway through the straits now, and hopefully they’ll hit some mines at the north end. Meanwhile a destroyer, on a slightly different course hit a mine and sank, marking the first military loss to the lurking explosives.
I have had several warnings about rebel aircraft flying defensive patrols over the Ankara area and along the coast against the Greeks, but so far, I haven’t spotted any activity in that area. I’ll keep an eye out for further developments.
THOUGHTS FOR NEXT DAY
If nothing else happens tonight, my intention is to rest my planes as best I can, and then have a major raid hit the Bosporus area as soon as they can see to target things. Everything coming from the USSR airfields will be going here, as well as most of the planes in western Romania and Bulgaria. My first priority will be to finish destroying the coastal forts, and then the coastal outposts. Second priority will be dealing with local air defences, third will be tackling concentrations of armour east of Constantinople, and fourth will be continuing the destruction of local troop units. Some of the more distant Bulgarian planes will also tackle the Nike site and the radar station in the Dardanelles. I may just be able to recycle some aircraft for a dusk strike, but a 10 hour recycle time and short winter days makes that difficult.
At sea, amphibious forces will continue to advance, limited by the presence of the Turkish missile boats. Those must be sunk first. I anticipate being able to kill them with Shaddocks once they clear the Bosporus, hopefully while still dark. If that is accomplished, then I can have some forces dash in for NGFS at dawn. If all goes well, then the go will be given for an ASW sweep off the beaches, and the landing by mid-day. If not, then we can pause for a day, and commit the following morning.
I’m not sure what to expect in terms of NATO offensive action. I’m certain there will be some sort of strike once they spot my ships, but I think I can limit its effectiveness. Incoming heavy army units (especially if not spotted on the march) could be a real problem after the landing, especially as much of my attack airpower will be spent by then.
I continue to wonder what the Americans are up to. (Presumably sinking our Mediterranean comrades.) They have the potential to make a real mess of the situation. Some TLAMs into a bomber base could be nasty surprise tonight, for instance. Or some F-15s could make a right mess of my attack planes. They’re a real wild-card.
< Message edited by AndrewJ -- 1/14/2019 9:31:58 PM >