The war with Russia’s been underway for three weeks now, and Norway needs marines! I’ve been assigned to get two Marine ARGs, currently about 100 miles north of the Shetlands, plus two fast ferries 200 miles further SW, up to the Norwegian port of Bodo.
My main surface force is a small British carrier group, based around the HMS Queen Elizabeth, plus a single Burke in each ARG. I’ve got a good force of five SSNs, three of them near my surface groups in the south, and two more up north between Jan Mayan Land and the Norwegian coast. There’s also a single Norwegian SS on their north coast. My air forces include MPA, tankers, and AEW operating out of Iceland and the UK, and F-16s and F-35s at a number of air-bases along the length of Norway. My one credible anti-shipping strike is a pair of B-1s with LRASMs in Iceland. Alarmingly, I also have control of a single British SSBN out in the North Atlantic. Hopefully it won’t come into play…
Intel reports there’s at least one Russian SAG out there, probably formed around a modern Kirov and Slava, which means their anti-shipping missile power greatly exceeds anything I have, and their formidable SAM defences can keep out almost anything I can throw at them. Worse, they have at least one modernized Oscar, which can deliver a crushing 72 missile ASM barrage, plus several more SSNs and SSKs. There’s also the possibility of air attack, which may be difficult across Finland, Sweden, and Norway, but there’s nothing to prevent them from coming around Norway from the north.
Normally I would try and stay out in the deep ocean, far from land, for as long as possible, but I’m truly alarmed by the possibility of running into an SSN or an SSGN ambush, especially if the Russians can detect me by satellite. Therefore, I reluctantly admit that I have to cede the open waters to the Russians.
My ARGs and the CVBG are ordered to turn east and head for the coast. The two ARGs will form up into one dense group, where their very effective short-ranged RAMs can provide mutual support against sudden SSGN attacks. The CVBG will also tighten up its formation, and proceed immediately in front of the ARG, hunting for submarines in its path. When the ships get within about 40 miles of the coast they will turn and head north towards Bodo, keeping over the horizon from any telescope-equipped spies on the coast. I suspect this course will actually put me at greater risk of bumping into the Kilos, but it will keep me further from the Oscars and their friends, and let me get support from (and give support to) land-based radar and fighter bases.
MPA from the UK and Norway will work to sanitize the path of the convoy and the Bodo unloading area, while the American P-3s out of Iceland will guard the seaward flank of the convoys. My three southern SSNs are sent scouting ahead of the convoys, while the two northern ones are ordered to perform a barrier patrol, looking for foes coming south. The little Norwegian SS is directed to come snorkelling south along the coast, and then guard the Bodo unloading area. With any luck, they will meet the arriving troops in a day and a half.
As my ships change course and get underway, reports start coming in of heavy air combat over Finland and Sweden. The Finns are taking a pounding from the Russians, both from their fighters and from the heavy SAMs up near Banak. Before long some MiGs are spotted near the FEBA, trying to make strafing runs on my SAMs and radars, but those that do pay the price without achieving much.
I’m reluctant to send many of my planes up at first, fearing a major Russian attack on my airfields, and for the most part I keep them on alert in their shelters. I don’t want them down for reloading when the strike arrives. A few of my F-16s from Bardufoss try and interfere near the FEBA, but they are outranged by the Russian missiles, and spend more time running away than shooting. So, the Finns are left on their own for now. I’m a lousy ally…
It’s not long before my MPA and AEW get a solid contact on the enemy SAG, about 90 nm north of Andoya, heading generally SW at 14 kts. This actually means they’re heading in the general direction of the Suffren, so the Suffren and the more distant Vermont are sent on intercept courses to try and cut them off. If I can get in with an SSN, then the potent Russian air-defences will be meaningless.
However, the SAG is not alone, and my radars start picking up large slow-moving bogeys coming in from the north. Bears! The F-16s from Andoya head out, and over the next half a day they manage to make a rich killing on the Bears and Mays that are trying to support the Russian ships. The enemy aircraft have no escorts, and none of them survive long enough to come close to my ships or subs. The ASW helicopters around the Russian ships are a tougher target, because of the Kirov’s SAMs, but by coming in low the F-16s manage to kill them off one by one.
In the meantime, the Russians inflict some pain of their own. A massive flight of cruise missiles is detected coming in across Sweden, headed for Bodo. The Swedes get a few of them, but most are still swarming in. I’m faced with a choice. I could surge my fighters, but my air-to-air missile stocks are not plentiful, and I’m still very concerned about a major Russian air-strike. I don’t want to be caught on the ground reloading and out of shots when it arrives. So, I launch a few fighters to thin the pack of missiles, and rely on my SAMs to deal with the rest. This almost works, but when the SAMs are all gone a few missiles are still incoming. Two of my large hangars get smashed, which will have long-term maintenance implications, but my hardened shelters and bunkers resist the rest of the hits, and I don’t lose any aircraft on the ground.
The Russians also seem to have beat up most of the Finnish air-force by now, and their fighters start getting closer to Norway. When some MiG-31s are detected making high-Mach dashes in the direction of my coastal AWACS I realize I have to commit to the fight. F-35s out of Evenes, and later out of Orland, are sent to face them. (I keep Bodo’s fighters readied for local defence.) The F-35s do a really good job, and with their excellent range they are able to follow up into the edges of Russian airspace, knocking down a Mainstay and some tankers. This happens several more times over the next hours, and by the time a day has elapsed the Russian air patrols have stopped.
While the air fight is ongoing, the Suffren is closing on the enemy. The Russian SAG makes a few course changes, which throw off my intercept, but the Suffren periodically puts up a radio mast for updates, and by 4:30 in the arctic morning it is lurking undetected in the path of the Russian ships. A four-torpedo salvo at the Kirov is followed by another three shots towards the Slava. The first four all hit, grievously wounding the battlecruiser, but in the milling confusion, with ships going in all directions, the next three lose track of the Slava. One hits the Sovremenny, causing mild flooding, and the other two slam into the listing Kirov, detonating its massive missile magazines.
The Suffren discretely draws away while the disorganized Russians reform, but what the captain does not realise is that there is an ASW helicopter bearing down on the area where he fired the torpedoes. Fortunately, one of the Andoya F-16s is patrolling nearby, and he comes in low enough to scoop krill with his intake, shooting down the helicopter before it can reach the sub. Half an hour later, the Suffren turns back towards the advancing Russians, and this time a four-torpedo salvo sinks the Slava outright. The Suffren now only has one torpedo left, so the captain decides it is time to break contact with the remainder of the task group, and sneaks away inside the layer, while ordering wine and croissants for his jubilant crew.
This is a major coup for NATO. My task groups would have been in missile range within four hours, so the sinking of the two long-ranged heavy missile ships is a tremendous relief. The celebration is even greater nine hours later, when the Vermont arrives in front of the task group and sinks the remainder of them, clearing the way for my surface groups to continue advancing towards Bodo. Now only enemy aircraft and subs remain as a threat.
It's not long before we find the subs, as the HMS Talent, creeping about 60 miles north of my advancing convoy, gets a contact on a distant SSK, 16 miles to port. The captain decides to stick up a mast and call a P-3, and then launches a long-ranged torpedo shot anyway. The torp reaches its target, but duds out, glancing harmlessly off the terrified Kilo. The P-3 arrives moments later, and snipes the kill, much to the Talent’s disgust. My convoys continue to advance.
It’s nearly 21:00 on the 28th when another cruise missile attack is detected headed for Bodo. I’ve got no SAMs, but this time my ships are only 70 miles away. A pair of fighters are scrambled from each of my ships and land bases, and they are enough to converge on the area and shoot down the entire raid (with the help of the Swedes, whose Kallax airbase is right under the missile’s flight-path).
From that point onwards, I detect no further Russian activity. My ships arrive and anchor in the Bodo unloading zone, while the CVBG patrols the area, and my subs set up barrier patrols at the entrances to the “Bodo Bay” area. MPA, and the Vermont and Suffren patrol further out to sea, where I expect the Soviet’s nuclear sub force is lurking, but they find nothing but tuna-fish and whales. Unloading continues at Bodo, and by 10:00 on the 29th the Marines are ashore. Mission accomplished!
Looking around afterwards, I’m really glad I came inshore, because I would have been a lot closer to the Russian nuclear subs if I’d stayed out to sea. I never found a single one of them. They had moved much further south than I had anticipated, and by the second half of the scenario the bulk of my search efforts were to the north of their position. Some of them did pass almost directly under sonobuoys, but unfortunately my mission areas were so large that my planes were out of radio range of the buoys when this happened, and the contacts went unnoticed. Extra-large patrol zones are not always a good idea. I never found the other two Kilos either. My convoys passed through the eastern side of their patrol zone while they were in the west, and we never met.
All in all, an interesting and enjoyable scenario. Thanks for writing it.