I've finally found some time to give this one a try, so here goes!
We're up in the Baltic, and HQ has ordered us to oversee the seizure of the island of Bornholm, by airdrop and amphibious landing. Our large amphibious fleet is currently loading in the Kaliningrad area, behind two lines of screening ASW patrol boats operating across the mouth of Gdansk Bay. Out to sea we have a strong surface group based around the cruiser Grozny, and several smaller groups of missile boats, ASW patrol craft, ASW frigates, and minesweepers en-route to the Bornholm area. I've also got a number of diesel subs around Bornholm. Only one is a modern Kilo, but even the old Foxtrots and Romeos could be useful if a ship comes their way. Against NATO subs, however, they're probably going to be flaming (bubbling?) datums. Air assets (aside from the paratroopers' cargo planes) include a very nice force of modern Flankers, good numbers of MiG-23s, and MiG-27s, plus assorted reconnaissance, AEW, and ASW assets.
The enemy's disposition is uncertain. The area is well within reach of NATO air-power, but a lot of that may be tied up with heavy fighting in Germany, so it's not certain how much will reach us. German Kormoran-carrying Tornadoes will be a special concern. Surface forces may show up, but we should be able to see them coming in time to counter them. The main risk will be the swarm of NATO's almost-midget diesel subs that are sure to be infesting the area. And the mines...
Night has just fallen, and my attack planes are not night-vision equipped. Realistically, any strikes and parachute landings will have to wait for morning. In the meantime, my amphibs are ordered to complete loading, form a tight convoy, and begin heading for Bornholm, escorted by ASW patrol craft and mine-sweeping helicopters. My major surface group will hurry south to meet them, and provide SAM cover from expected air attacks, while land-based ASW helicopters and MPA sweep their transit lane for subs.
Lesser naval forces (forward ASW patrols and missile boats) will do their best to operate in the approaches to Bornholm. They are essentially defenceless against aircraft or anti-shipping missiles, so Flankers and MiG-23s are assigned to provide some cover. I would prefer to reserve most of my planes for decisive action, so the CAP will have to be light to begin with. I am most concerned about the survivability of my minesweepers, which will need to operate unsupported and within sight of the shore for an extended period. They will be most vulnerable of all.
Bombardment of Bornholm is expected to begin at first light, with parachute assaults and amphibious landings scheduled to follow in the early afternoon, after my attack planes are ready for a second wave. I don't anticipate too much resistance on Bornholm itself, but there are sure to be counter-strikes as my forces arrive in the theatre and after they have landed.
Sub clashes, Part 1
Operations begin with CAP, surveillance, and ASW aircraft lifting off and heading for their stations, while ships and submarines slow to creep and listen for nearby foes.
Almost immediately, the captain of the S-212, a Romeo class sub, is startled to get a contact on a fast-moving sub 6 miles to his N, moving at 16 knots. There's no way he can catch it, even at flank speed, and he'd only deafen himself and make an absurd amount of noise if he tried, so he sticks up an antenna, contacts the Krivak that's operating in his region, and radios in a spotting report. Minutes later an SS-N-14 is dropping an ASW torpedo on the contact, and after a few close passes there is a satisfying thud, and the NATO sub (the Unicorn, a very modern British boat) settles lifelessly on the Baltic sea floor.
It's only a few minutes later that the ASW patrol group operating NE of Bornholm detects incoming torpedoes - this time NATO saw us first! The little ships scatter, turning to flee at flank speed, and blindly firing ASW torpedoes over their shoulders along the bearing to the enemy weapons. The incoming torpedoes are fast, but, fortunately, short ranged, and they run out of fuel before they can reach my retiring ships. As my captains swing about to re-engage they hear another explosive thud, as one of their torpedoes hits something. They continue to search the area cautiously, but find nothing, and they tentatively write it up as a kill. (Postwar records show that this was the patrol area for the Danish sub Nordkaperen.)
By this point my reconnaissance aircraft are starting to get a better picture of the theatre. There's a single surveillance radar radiating in the centre of Bornholm, a very slow moving aerial contact over the island, possibly some sort of drone, and a surface contact west of the island, moving further west at 12 knots. There's the possibility that this could be a civilian ferry, or something like that, but a close pass by a recce Su-24 reveals it to be a minelayer. Probably empty by now, dammit...
My SEAD Fitters (which can work quite happily in the darkness) arrive at this point, and destroy the surveillance radar with a single well-placed ARM. The Su-24 swings around to make a low-level high-speed pass over Bornholm itself, trusting in speed and darkness to keep it safe. A Stinger gunner proves that to be unwise, wrecking the port engine, but the plane manages to get home and report. Analysis of the tapes and footage shows no signs of ships or aircraft at the port and airfield, which is a relief, and although there are some indications of ground units, there don't seem to be any major SAM sites or anti-shipping missile batteries. (Unless they're still hiding.)
Meanwhile, my distant shore-based Sepal missile batteries have fired a single shot at the minelayer, and when the massive missile finally arrives it plunges in towards the isolated target, and promptly malfunctions and misses completely. Fortunately, the minelayer turned on its radars to try and shoot down the Sepal, which allows the Fitters to fire a pair of ARMs at it. Those do not malfunction, and the hits start a fierce fire, which soon brings the wounded listing ship to a halt. It eventually burns out and sinks during the night.
NATO doesn't seem to be sending any aircraft into the region (other than the Bornholm drone, which is swiftly shot down), and my advancing ELINT MiG-25s and Bears approach the western limits of our area of operation. The Bear's radar operator spots a German frigate operating alone near the Neustadt naval base, but there don't seem to be any other NATO ships at sea yet. The ELINT planes also pick up the strong emissions of NATO AWACS planes, operating safely within their airspace, and ground based radars too. These are all beyond my assigned AO, and probably amid fierce fighting, so there's nothing I can do about them. I have to accept that my operations will be under observation the whole time.
Sub clashes, Part 2
NATO doesn't want my southern ASW group to feel left out, and they're fired on by torpedoes too. The captains know the drill, and they turn to flee while firing torpedoes, but this time the results are inconclusive. I manage to outrun the enemy torpedoes, which are slower but longer-ranged than the ones I encountered in the north, but none of my shots hit either. My ships turn around to start hunting again, but initially they find nothing.
Since NATO doesn't seem to be sending fighters into the region, it seems safe to send a Be-12 ASW plane into the area to assist. When it arrives and turns on its radar it immediately gets a small contact, which is much too far away to be the sub which fired on my ASW group. Another sub snorkelling? Floating garbage? The Be-12 abandons the ASW group and flies over to investigate, soon gets a sonobuoy contact on some sort of SS, and gleefully pounces on it and kills it with a single torpedo.
Meanwhile the other sub fires on the ASW group again, forcing me to flee and fire defensively once more. The Be-12 comes hurrying back, and picks up the submarine contact with a sonobuoy, just in time to hear one of my defensively fired torpedoes home in and strike it. Four down!
Four enemy subs sunk within the first hour and a half is a very encouraging start. The worrying part is that the two subs which fired at me were completely undetected by my ASW ships before they attacked. If something like that happens to the amphibs, they won't be able to turn and run like ASW corvettes - there will be hits. There are probably more subs still out there, possibly along the route my amphibs have to travel before they get to Bornholm. I think I'll need to adjust the ASW patrol plans for my convoy, to provide more local direct screening on the route of travel, rather than trying to do wide barrier lines.
The other thing I'm worried about is the lack of enemy air activity. They've definitely spotted and ID-ed my aircraft as hostile, and even shot AAA and SAMs at them, but so far there's been no attempt to intercept me or give cover to Bornholm. I'd been hoping to start whittling the enemy fighters down in air-to-air combat, where my Flankers should have the range advantage, but I can't do that if they won't come up to fight. The ungrateful rotters...