It is 1987 and WW3 has broken-out. While US carrier groups battle Soviet forces in the Norwegian Sea, the USSR seeks to infiltrate its submarine fleet into the Atlantic. NATO responds with a large ASW task force in the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) Gap, centred on the carriers Illustrious and Garibaldi. The Soviets attempt to force the door open with a quartet of nuclear submarines. You can only play the Soviet side.
Three of the subs (a Victor III, Mike and Alfa) aren't actually much use, having only torpedoes (best range 7nm, most 5 or 4) for surface targets. The Alfa also suffers from limited (15nm) sonar range (the others having 40-70, like their US counterparts). The only truly potent weapon at your disposal is the Oscar II boat Krasnodar, which mounts 24 Shipwreck missiles with a 300nm range. To supplement your sonar for search purposes, you are given an array of satellites (and the Shipwrecks can utilise satellite download data).
Given the vulnerability of subs in this game, I approached the scenario with some trepidation, revising all my notes from the CMO submarine tutorials. Even then, the best strategy seemed to be to send a message saying 'we surrender' !!
For some reason, the Russians start closely grouped in the middle of the Iceland-UK passage, to the SW of the NATO ASW group. I can only assume that they were already at sea when war broke-out and came in from the wider Atlantic, as there's no way they could have gotten through.
Given that NATO has several escorts with 100nm range towed arrays and plenty of patrol planes to deluge the sea with sonobuoys, I was expecting to be found in short order, but this didn't happen. It's a big ocean and the enemy were strictly guarding the Gap to my NE. I soon got satellite reports on ten escorts in three groups, but there was no sign of the carriers.
The best strategy seemed to be to lurk in place until the carriers appeared, then stake everything on a strike with Shipwrecks. Even then, two or three hits would be needed to sink a carrier, which was a bit of an 'ask' given the likely SAM defences. I sent the Victor and Mike towards the limit of the NATO towed array range (and no nearer)to extend sonar coverage and run interference, kept the Krasnodar back and assigned the Alfa to guard her against US subs that were reported to be in the area.
There were a few biological contacts to ease the monotony as I waited for 11 hours of game time, mostly playing at x5 speed but eventually on Turbo. It was desperately slow going (and I know this is part-and-parcel of submarine ops). Resuming from a Save, I found that my subs had had their positions swapped around (!!), which wasn't ideal but did get Krasnodar nearer the targets. Adjusted as best I could.
Eventually, I got totally sick of constantly batting away air contact change and sonobuoy messages (the buoys were being laid in a NW-SE line that might have been problematic had I been suicidal enough to try to close to torpedo range). For whatever reason, the satellites just couldn't spot the carriers and there was no way they were going to stray within range of my sonar. Another annoyance was the game not stopping when multiple messages hit at once, which is quite dangerous when you're playing at high time compression.
To end the frustration, I cracked and opened-up on the escorts with the Shipwrecks, well aware that this might not score enough points to win and that enemy SAMs were likely to down a good proportion of them. Patiently overcoming issues with target ambiguity (just a matter of waiting the bad luck out), I launched two missiles at each of the ten escorts I'd detected. These sank the destroyers Manchester, Nottingham and Audace (latter was Italian) and the frigate Sirius. I then fired the remaining four missiles at a Spruance destroyer (3) and the Maestrale-class frigate Scirocco (1), sinking the latter.
Out of missiles and not feeling suicidal, I turned and ran (well, crept) to the SW, seeking easier targets for my torpedoes in the open ocean. The expected aerial search assumed I'd gone the other way. At this point, I accepted a final score of 1,300 and quit, despite this being a Minor Defeat.
It's possible that the carriers aren't on the map to begin-with and spawn later in the scenario, but I did detect several Sea Harriers, which could only have come from the Illustrious. Air activity suggested that the flat-tops might have been to the NE of the escort patrol line, while other possibilities were the Greenland-Iceland Gap and off NW Scotland (neither location being either quick or safe to reach). I remain mystified as to why the satellites didn't spot them and there was no other practical way of doing so. Waiting for them to appear requires so much patience that it makes the scenario unplayable, while attempting to breach the picket line would be suicide.
I'd be interested to hear how other people have fared with this scenario.