It looks like war is breaking out in Europe, and here off the coast of Japan I am in charge of a small American carrier group gathering west of Honshu. We’re a bit spread out, and our Leahy is still hurrying to catch up after refueling. We’re being sent up through the Tsugaru Strait, to rendezvous with a tanker which is coming across the Pacific to meet us. The Russian war-machine is poised and ready in Vladivostok, 400 miles to our west, which puts us well within range of any missile-carrying bombers coming from the mainland. The area is crawling with merchantmen and fishermen, and there are a pair of Soviet tattletales (one older DD, one AGI) shadowing the carrier group. If anything happens, the enemy already know where we are.
In addition to my somewhat dispersed carrier group, I have a pair of SSNs. One old Sturgeon is N of the carrier group in mid-ocean, and a newer 688 is lurking off Vladivostok. My incoming tanker, steaming across the Pacific, is being escorted by a Knox, which should provide effective ASW screening, and its lack of air defence shouldn’t be an issue out there. There’s also a Perry (the Jarrett) up near the rendezvous zone, in case anything’s lurking in wait. The Japanese also have a series of destroyers posted along their west coast, on ASW patrols.
I do have some useful land-based air cover, in the form of F-18s down south, and F-16s up north, and the Japanese have their own air patrols along the length of the islands. I even have some F-15s in distant Okinawa, However, they’re not all on a war footing yet, nor are the ones on my carrier, and it will take a few hours before everyone is up and ready.
AEW and ELINT/ESM assets and maritime surveillance assets are ordered to begin sweeping the area immediately. Most will be operating west of Japan, but one P-3 is sent east, towards our tanker group, in case some sort of disguised Soviet ship is lurking piratically in the area.
The tanker group is to tighten formation, deke 20 miles off-course to throw off any immediate pursuit or ambush, and then resume its transit towards the rendezvous area.
The Jarrett, in our patrol area east of the straits, is ordered to sweep into the mouth of the straits, before returning to guard the rendezvous area.
My 688 SSN off Vladivostok is ordered to periscope depth to provide ESM warning of air activity in the region, while the old Sturgeon SSN will do its best to stay out of trouble in mid-ocean.
The carrier group is ordered to tighten up formation and head south directly towards the Leahy at full speed, while the Leahy rushes north to meet them. The combined group will adopt a tight anti-missile formation and head for the coast, giving them more room to avoid Russian threats, and making them easier to cover with land-based air. It will then continue north along the coast as circumstances warrant.
As my aircraft spread out, I start to get a better look at the overall situation. There’s plenty of activity in Russia, where surveillance and SAM radars are in evidence, along with the powerful emissions of Badger reconnaissance aircraft. Not only have the Russians got me directly from their tattletales, but they also have me on radar too. As alarming news reports flow in from Europe, and the Defcon level starts ratcheting up, I start getting more indications of Soviet air activity. More surveillance planes start showing up, jammers begin to make an appearance, and then fighters; first MiG-23s, then Su-27s, and even some MiG-31s.
I had initially hoped to keep my fighters on the ground as long as possible, but it’s becoming obvious that this won’t be an option much longer, and my first patrols start heading west. The enemy recce planes are actually closer to me than the enemy fighters, which seem to be staying inshore for the moment, and I start to wonder if my best course of action is to concentrate on them, hoping to rapidly poke the enemy’s eyes out, rather than CAP-ing over the carrier or trying to tackle the fighters. Accordingly, my first flights spread out, moving a couple hundred miles west to threaten the Badgers.
To my annoyance, an enemy Badger also turns on its radar far out to the east, coming in to have a look at my tanker group, which pretty much scotches my chance of keeping undetected and dodging any ambushes. This is actually rather worrying. I don’t think missile-carrying attackers are likely (although if one Badger is there, why not another?), but this guy could easily be cueing an SSGN, or something like that. I decide to send one of my precious ready F-16s to intercept, and the Jarrett is ordered to hurry east to meet them, to provide a modicum of air defence.
First to fire are actually the Japanese! Their destroyers manage to get contacts on a pair of probable subs in the western approaches to the Tsugaru Strait, and they start to maneuver aggressively to engage. Admiralty manages to wave them off in time, but the memo doesn’t get through to their P-3s, who sink a Tango before anyone can stop them. (Translation: I switched sides and adjusted the ROE for the destroyers’ ASW patrols, but forgot to do it for the P-3s. Ooops!)
They’re heading for the second contact, when they get ordered to wave off. I almost wish they had engaged, because now the second contact has managed to throw off its trackers, and I’m not sure exactly where it has gone. An S-3 is headed north to help out, but for the moment the contact is elusive.
Diplomatic distinctions of who fired first probably don’t matter much at this point. The recce planes seem to be moving further out to sea, the line of jammers is firming up behind them, and fighter patrols are moving out to join them. I’m getting intel reports of large formations over Vladivostok, and when my AWACS starts getting hits on formations of slow movers I can’t wait any longer. The last ready planes are scrambled from my squadrons on-shore, and a few more carrier planes launch. I’ve still got about 50% of my ready planes on-deck, but it can’t be long until I’ll need them too.
I have not yet called for assistance from the Japanese, and my hope is that I won’t need to. My carrier group is collected together and headed for shore, and maybe, just maybe, we’re going to get out of this without help.
Suddenly, AWACS reports supersonic sea-skimming missiles appearing in mid-ocean. Oscar! Moments later, a second one opens fire. Two streams of missiles are headed for the carrier group, and a few more are headed for the northern Japanese destroyers, which are essentially defenceless against this particular threat.
Our response is immediate. Harpoons roar away across the waves, rapidly sinking the pair of tattletales, and my dispersed line of fighters start knocking down Badgers and recce Backfires, trying to kill as much of their long-range radar recce as possible. Enemy fighters are ignored wherever possible, and things go very well for the initial salvo, but attempts to pursue the more distant enemy are foiled by their long-ranged SAMs, and I’m forced to go diving to the deck. There are still enemy radar planes up, and I don’t think I’ll get them all.
On the carrier, the deck crews work as fast as they can, launching every fighter we have left. Half of them are directed to each of the incoming streams of missiles. They certainly won’t be able to stop them all, but my hope is that they can thin the lines enough for the SAMs to be able to stop the rest. Reports are coming in of sabotage and attacks on the mainland, but fortunately every land-based ready fighter I have is already up.
The first of the missiles is hurtling towards the Japanese. Is there any hope for them?
Assuming I survive the double-Oscar attack, the question becomes what to do next. So far, the (assumed) enemy bombers do not seem to have come out to sea. Maybe, now that I have managed to knock down a number of recce planes and sink the tattletales, the enemy no longer has a reliable contact on me? That is my hope, but it may be a slender one. I’ll continue to retire towards the coast and then head north, but making the rendezvous as scheduled is entirely optional now. Hopefully there aren’t too many subs in my path. And maybe my single F-16 will get to that eastern Badger before it can summon a world of hate for my lonely tanker? We shall see!
< Message edited by AndrewJ -- 3/31/2021 11:43:36 PM >