A couple of days have passed on the Syrian coast, and it turns out NATO's past successes have been greatly exaggerated. The Russian fleet remains a powerful force, the SA-10 belt in Latakia has been replenished, and the Syrian air defence net is intact. We have been instructed to conduct strikes against these forces, as well as to get three vulnerable refueling ships down to the Suez Canal, in order to re-arm the incoming Nimitz group. The Israeli question hangs in the air too - can we keep them out of the war?
NATO air-forces in the region have grown, and now include Jordanian allies, three bases in southern Turkey, one in Egypt, and bases on Cyprus, Crete, and Sicily. In addition to surviving naval forces sheltering west of Cyprus, with seriously depleted magazines, I have a string of naval forces stretching from Cyprus to Sicily, including a frigate screen, the remains of the Brit carrier group, the Bainbridge (hurrying in from Spain), French and Italian carrier groups, my command ship, and finally the distant Eisenhower CVBG.
Unfortunately, I have several constraints on the carriers. High command doesn't want the Ike to come much further east, and in fact they're going to order the entire group west, into the Atlantic, in a day or so. The Ike will be distant support at best. The Italians want their carrier back ASAP, since things look ominous in the Adriatic, and it will take considerable political capital to keep it.
I have two days to accomplish my objectives. How to proceed?
The Italian carrier group is excellent, not just for the planes (FLIR equipped Harriers, superb for finding ground targets), but for the 32 long-range Otomat ASMs they carry. My front-line ships have expended many of their missiles, and I could make good use of these while staying outside of Sunburn range. However, they're over 600 miles from the operating area, and unless I rush them at reckless speed they probably won't get there in time to contribute unless I wait far too long to attack. I reluctantly concede to Italian pressure, and send them back to home waters.
My ships near Cyprus will re-organize somewhat. The depleted British ships will try to dash into Limassol, to stock up on SAMs, while the rest of the combatants join up with the Iowa group. I could send the depleted Americans back to Crete for reloads in Souda, but that's so far away they'd not be back until midway through the last day, and that's too long. They'll have to stay and fight with depleted magazines until reinforcements arrive. The Amphibs will break off, with only a Knox to provide ASW cover, and discretely head west, to get out of enemy radar cover. Until they do, they remain at risk from the Slava, which we're told has reloaded.
My frigate screen will break up, with most of them hurrying to join the Iowa, while the Andromeda heads west to meet up with the Fort Grange. The Brit group is breaking up, with one of the Type 23s heading back to the west end of Crete, while the other Type 23 and the Type 22 head for Port Said. The objective of these ASW ships is to proof the lane the oilers in Souda will follow on their way to the Suez. I'm worried about subs in the Aegean, so the oilers will be travelling around the west end of Crete, meeting up with my command group, and then heading ESE to the canal, picking up the ASW escorts as the proceed. My remaining ships (the Type 42 and Bainbridge group) will slow down and wait for the Foch to catch up, as they all proceed along a P-3 proofed corridor directly to Cyprus.
The Ike will steam to the eastern edge of its patrol zone, and immediately launch a long-range F-14 sweep, enabled by tankers out of Sigonella, to try and provoke the better enemy fighters to come up and engage, while picking on support aircraft like Badgers and Fencers without getting too deep into the SAM umbrella. Then, in the night, the Ike and Foch will launch a heavy ASM strike, along with the Iowa group, to try and sink the Russian fleet in one blow. By the time the strikers are back and reloaded it will almost be time for the Ike to head west. I may be able to squeeze some extra SEAD activity in, but probably not another alpha-strike.
My land-based air will primarily concentrate in AA activity at first, to reduce Syrian and Russian fighter numbers, before trying to tackle their SAMs directly the following day. As a result, many of the Turkish F-4s are being ordered to unload their bombs and put their Sparrows back on. I'm still undecided about the Latakia area. I don't have swarms of TLAMs to saturate the SA-10 belt, and I don't have an extra day to whittle down their fighter and SAM stockpiles if I want to combine with the Ike's Harpoon attack tonight. I don't know if I can pull off another sweep of all the Latakia defences in one strike. Staff are assigned to study the issue...
Let's see how long this plan survives the enemy!
< Message edited by AndrewJ -- 3/16/2019 2:56:48 AM >