Author Topic: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR  (Read 22351 times)

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Offline Airborne Rifles

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Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« on: May 18, 2015, 09:15:02 AM »
Here’s the start of my AAR for the second scenario in the excellent Northern Fury series created by Gunner98 over at Matrix forums. This one takes place simultaneously to the events in Northern Fury 1: H-Hour, but a little further east in the Barents Sea. I’m playing the part of the captain of the Seawolf-class USS Connecticut (SSN-22), the senior NATO captain on X-Ray Station. What is X-Ray station, you ask? Here’s from the scenario description:

“X-Ray Station was a long standing patrol area for NATO submarines whose job it was to keep tabs on the Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet, in particular the major surface units and the SSBNs.  Several US and often UK submarines were on this station for almost 30 years.”

The X-Ray station patrol area covers the Arctic Ocean north of the Kola Peninsula and the exits to the White Sea, and West of the island of Novaya Zemlya (“New World” in Russian). Currently there are five NATO submarines on station. My own boat, being the quietest and newest, is covering the patrol sector furthest south, at the exits of the White Sea. Any Soviet fleet units will have to transit this area to gain access to open water. However, the strait is covered by a bottom listening array, so I cannot approach too close. The other four submarines on station form a southwest-northeast arc consisting of (in counter-clockwise order) USS New York City (SSN696), USS Boise (SSN764), USS Baltimore (SSN704), and HMS Trafalgar (S107). Two other submarines, USS Philadelphia and HMS Churchill, are off tracking Russian SSBNs and will not take part in this scenario.



Our orders are primarily to sniff for Russian boomers and track them, but also to report detection of major surface units of the Red Banner Northern fleet. In the event of war we are to remain on station and report as the ears of the fleet, and only to take a shot if we can engage a major Soviet unit under favorable conditions, not likely to happen up here. These orders and our standard operating procedures on station were all laid out at a captains' meeting back in Scotland before departing. It’s now 1300 on 13 February, 1994, and USS Connecticut just conducted our weekly comms check. It was a bit of a shock, as I was informed that we are at DEFCON 4, without much explanation.

This would seem a good time for me to explain some “house rules” I've set for myself in this scenario. I know from the last Northern Fury Scenario that the war starts at 1300, or right now, but as a submarine out of communication for long periods of time I wouldn't have any way of knowing this, and neither would any of the other subs. Furthermore, the subs can’t communicate with each other. This precludes any sort of coordinated action, so if I do launch attacks, I will do so with one boat at a time. As such, I’m also leaving each submarine (except USS Connecticut) on its pre-plotted course until it detects a target, at which point I can assume the role of that sub’s captain and respond to what the boat’s sensors are hearing. Furthermore, none of the submarines will act offensively until they are either attacked, or detect a major Soviet unit and go shallow to report, at which point I assume they receive a message that hostilities have commenced.

Ok, so much for the set-up...

The scenario begins. USS Boise (the only improved 688 boat on station), creeping southeast at 5 kts, picks up two groups of Russia surface contacts. One appears to be composed of a destroyer and a frigate heading west at high speed, about 15 miles west of Boise. Boise’s sonar operators can’t determine types, since the targets (all other ships are target to submariners, right?) are too far off, but they inform the captain (we’ll call him Commander Morgan) that they think they can hear more screws beyond these two. The other group, about 15 miles northeast of Boise, appears to be composed of two destroyers, but a third contact of undetermined type is also there. The sonar technicians estimate they are also making turns for high speed, probably 30kts, also headed west. This is unusual activity for the Russians. Morgan thinks about the situation and reasons that he can turn west, go deep, and conduct a high-speed sprint to close the range with the western group of Russians and determine their composition. This will leave his boat is good position to then turn north and cut across the course of the northeastern group.

He orders, “Helm, make your depth 750 feet, course 170, speed 32 knots.”

Boise turns, accelerating as she descends.

Unknown to Commander Morgan and the crew of Boise, to their north USS Baltimore, captained by Commander Daniels, has also detected the northeaster group of Russian surface ships (though these are southeast relative to Baltimore). Daniels alters Baltimore’s course to the south, maintaining a speed of 5 kts, to close the distance between his boat and the patch of water that the speeding Russians will pass over in about 90 minutes if they maintain course and speed.

Far to the northeast, west of Novaya Zemlya, Commander de Bicardi of HMS Trafalgar is informed by his sonar operators that they hear what sounds like two destroyers far to their north heading west at about 20 kts. De Bicardi orders Trafalgar deep and onto a northwesterly intercept course at high speed.

It is now 1305. Three of the five subs have contacts that they are investigating. USS New York City (Commander Beam), and myself on Connecticut currently have clear sonar scopes. New York City continues creeping south at 5 kts while I order Connecticut to change course to the northeast to open up some range between myself and the Russian listening arrays.

Offline OJsDad

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2015, 11:27:38 AM »
About time!  O0
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Offline Airborne Rifles

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2015, 06:37:13 PM »
“Maintain course and speed for two hours,” orders Commander Morgan, “I’ll be in my state room. Send someone to wake me at 1500 hours.” With that hw walked the few steps to his quarters, rolled into his bunk, and promptly fell asleep as USS Boise sped west at top speed and as deep as the ocean bottom would allow, in chase of the surface targets Morgan hoped would be there.

Sixty miles to the north, Commander Daniels in Baltimore was coming to the conclusion that his boat, even at maximum depth, would not be able to safely close with the Russian surface targets hurtling west at 30 kts. “Helm, take us shallow, course 125, speed five knots. Let’s report in.”

Daniels walks the few steps to from the CIC to the comms room and dictates, “When we get shallow, send the following message:”

PRIORITY
From: CDR, USS Baltimore, To: COMSUBLANT
Report multiple REDFLT surface contacts location N 73 1’47”, E 36 48’41”, heading 289, speed approximately 30 kts. Composition 2 DDGs, 1 CG, one other unit. Assessment, REDFLT surface action group moving at high speed into north Atlantic. Am proceeding to station.

“Let me know if there is any mail from fleet,” he said as he turned and walked back to his captain’s chair.

Just as he was settling in the seaman in the communications closet called, “Skipper, you need to see this!” The tone of his voice quickened Daniels’ step as he moved back to the comms room and grabbed the Emergency Action Message from the technician, and read:

FLASH FLASH FLASH
From: COMSUBLANT, To: All units, X-Ray Station
At 1313001994 WP forces initiated hostilities against US and NATO forces around the globe. We are at war, repeat, we are at war. Take all measures commensurate with the   safety of your vessel. Remain on station and report any REDFLT movements. You are authorized to take offensive action against any Soviet or WP units you encounter, provided this does not compromise your primary mission of reconnaissance. More instructions will follow as situation develops. Maintain current reporting schedule. End.

Daniels felt a thrill run up his spine and the blood in his veins turn icy cold all at the same time. Here was what he had been training for, planning for, waiting for his entire career, to be in the Russians’ back yard when the Cold War went hot. Now that he was actually here, he wasn’t sure whether to feel excited or frightened. The he remembered it wasn’t his job to feel anything. He walked back to his chair, grabbed the mic from above his head and said, “Now hear this, we are at war. That’s all the information I have. I don’t know why, or how, or anything else, but an hour ago those commie Russians decided that we’re going to have it out old-fashioned like. Our mission hasn’t changed. We’re still the best boat in the fleet, and we’re still good at doing our impression of a hole in the water. We just tracked a Russian SAG heading west at high speed, and our report is going to let our brothers further west get a warm reception ready for them. Just keep doing your jobs, and one day you’ll have a sea story that you can bore your grandkids with. That is all.” He replaced the mic.

Daniels turned, “Helm, maintain course and speed, make your depth 800 feet.” As the helmsman acknowledged and complied,  Daniels turned to the XO and muttered, “there’s going to be subs behind those surface ships. Wait and see. The whole Northern fleet is going to thundering this way. We may even be able to pick one off.”

“Yes sir,” responded the XO, as the deck canted downward as Baltimore descended into the icy Barents sea.

Offline mirth

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2015, 07:25:35 PM »
schwing!
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Offline Airborne Rifles

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2015, 06:23:12 PM »
Far to the northeast, Commander de Bicardi in HMS Trafalgar was sipping at a mug of tea and glancing at his watch in his boat’s CIC. As the arms on his watch ticked past 1430 (Zulu time) he looked up and in his clipped, aristocratic accent said, “Very well, I think that’s quite enough. Slow to five knots and bring us up to a depth of 30 meters, if you please. Let’s see if we can reestablish contact with old Ivan.”

Trafalgar came up slowly, passing through the thermal layer and into the roiled waters just below the surface, gently rocking the boat. “Sounds like rain on the surface, sir, and a bit of a blow,” called the lead sonarman.

“Any sound of the Sovs?” de Bicardi asked, annoyed.

“Not yet, sir,” came the cockney reply.

“Well, keep at it.”

Trafalgar continued on a northwesterly course for several minutes, then, “Sir, I’m picking up screws, directly ahead. Not the same boats we heard earlier, no sign of that one, but this one’s right where they should be, approximately 15 miles ahead.” 

“Well then,” de Bicardi mused, “that makes at least three Ivans. Can you make out course and speed.”

“Give it some time, sir.”

Over the next quarter hour Trafalgar’s sonarmen worked to make out the sound of the Soviet ships in the less than ideal surface conditions. Then the head sonar tech reported, “sir, she’s a Kashin-class destroyer, almost certain. She sounds to making turns for 25 knots or so. Those other two we heard two hours ago, those sounded like another cruiser and destroyer to me. This is where they should be, but I just can’t hear them sir.”

“Very well,” de Bicardi said, somewhat annoyed. “Sounds like we’ve got a Russki SAG heading west, though its bloody far north for them. Odd. We’re already too far out of our patrol area. Let’s get up to communication depth and tell the fellows back home what we’ve heard.”

Trafalgar ascended and unreeled its tethered comms buoy. In seconds the burst message was travelling spaceward at light speed, passing another message being broadcast continuously from the opposite direction, from the orbiting communication satellite. When it arrived...

“Sir, you need to see this!”

De Bicardi grabbed the printout, read it, and muttered, “Bloody hell...”

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2015, 08:30:38 PM »
“Sir?”

Morgan blinked his eyes.

“Sir? you asked us to wake you after ninety minutes sir.”

Morgan sat up, slowly remember ring to send USS Boise on its deep speed run west. “I’ll be on the bridge in a minute sailor.”

Morgan stood up, straightened his uniform, and walked out into the CIC. The officer of the deck was already slowing to five knots and ascending above the layer as planned.

“Once we’re above the layer, let’s start a north-south search pattern to see if we can pick anything up on the towed array,” Morgan said.

For the next several minutes USS Boise trailed her towed array listening for any sign of the Russians to the west. Morgan had taken his boat well outside his patrol area on a hunch that there was more to this contact than a solitary DDG speeding west. Just as his heart was beginning to sink he hear, “Conn, sonar, I’m picking up screw noises from multiple surface contacts in the first convergence zone on an approximate bearing of two-seven-zero. Two early for count or classification. Give me some time.”

Then, paydirt. “Conn, sonar, one of those skunks sounds an awful lot like a Kiev-class carrier. I think I can discern one or two DDGs, a CG, and two frigates that look like they’re acting as flankers north and south of the main group.”

“Now that’s interesting,” Morgan said to the officer of the deck, a young lieutenant, “Kiev class up here means either Kiev or Baku, and they don’t normally just send them charging west at flank speed like that. Let’s firm up the contact and then go shallow and report. Then we’ll turn back east and get back on station.”

Over the next half hour Boise’s sonarmen were able to positively identify the helicopter carrier as being in fact the Kiev, and were also able to get a firm fix on one of the Krivak-class frigates protecting the Soviet formation’s southern flank. A few minutes later Boise ascended and sent off its burst transmission contact report, duly receiving in return the news that the Russian ships were now targets literally as well as conceptually.

“Damn,” muttered Morgan. “I’ll bet the rest of the Red northern fleet is breaking out too. Hope they didn’t manage to get behind us like the Kiev group almost did. What’s Connecticut going down there, sleeping?”

The captain and crew of the Seawolf-class boat USS Connecticut, almost 200 miles to the south, were not in fact sleeping, but neither had they managed to detect anything useful in the last two hours, either. Myself, as captain, had to resist the urge to alter course or poke up to periscope depth to snoop around. Knowing we are on DEFCON 4 was disconcerting, and if war did break out you can bet that the Russians are going to lay so many sonobuoys on this patch of water that you could cross the exits to the white sea without getting your feet wet.  No, stay deep, stay slow, only minor course variations to throw off a possible sniff if the Russians can get one. As we head northeast the water deepens gently until we can unreel our towed array and take advantage of the convergence zones in the deeper water. After about another hour the patience pays off.

“Conn, sonar, I have a surface contact, in the second convergence zone, maybe 30-70 miles, approximate bearing one-six-zero. Don’t know who he is, but he’s making a lot of noise and moving fast.”

“Roger, maintain course and speed.”

A few minutes later, “conn, sonar, that skunk is definitely a Kirov-class battlecruiser. I can hear the pump noises on his reactor plant working overtime. He’s moving out sir. Can’t make out anything with him though.”

“Well,” I say, “he’s not coming out alone, that’s for sure.” This is an ominous development. Just three hours ago we essentially received a war warning, and now one on the major units of the Soviet fleet is rushing out, unannounced and unscheduled at high speed. I need more information.

“Helm, put us above the layer. Let’s see if we can hear anything else coming out with him.”

Connecticut ascended to 98 feet, continuing to creep at 5 knots on a northeasterly course. After a few minutes my fears were realized. We detected a virtual stream of surface contacts coming north-northwest out of the white sea. Frigates, destroyers, cruisers, in addition to the battlecruiser we had heard earlier and then lost when he passed through the convergence zone. SOme were moving at 30 knots, some 25, some 20, some 8. “Sonar, let’s start getting this picture sorted out. I want to know if we pick up any more of their heavies. They got two Kirovs up here, two carriers, two baby carriers. We need to report if they are moving or not.”

“Aye sir. No love on any of them yet, but one of these CGs is starting to sound a lot like one of those new Slava-class cruisers.”

“Got it, this looks like a sortie by a good chunk of the northern fleet. It’s unlikely that the heavies aren’t there somewhere. Let’s go deep again, pick up speed and see if we can get in among the stream.”

Connecticut dove and accelerated to 20 knots for 30 minutes, then slowed and ascended again. The sonar room worked to reacquire the surface contacts we’d lost during our speed run. Then, an excited voice, “conn, sonar, I’ve got one of the CVs sir, contact’s firming up, she’s the Kuznetsov, flag ship of the northern fleet!”

“Give me a proper contact report sailor.”

“Uh, aye sir, relative bearing is about three-four-zero-range about 7 to 10 miles. She’s making turns for I’d say 30 knots, and she has a couple DDGs and that Kirov in close escort.” Then, “Sir, there’s something else. There’s a Sovremeny class destroyer about 16 miles south that’s on a course to pass directly over us if we maintain present course and speed. I can’t guarantee he won’t hear us.”

I walk over to the navigation chart. We’re in relatively shallow water, only 600-700 feet. To the east and west the ocean floor is even shallower, but to the north is a channel close to 800 feet. Every foot of water over our heads is key to staying concealed.

“Very well, alter course to three-four-zero. Navigator, put us as deep as we can go here and then increase speed to 20 knots. we’ll dash north to the deeper water, the dog-leg east to get out of the way of that DDG. Then we’ll come up above the layer again and have another listen. We can’t report in and risk detection until there’s some distance between ourselves and all these Russians, but I have a bad feeling about all this.”

Elsewhere, things were starting to happen more quickly as well. On board USS New York City Commander Beam was in his cabin doing efficiency reports when he heard, “Captain to the conn.” He happily set aside the paperwork for whatever the welcome distraction could be.

“What is it, Mr. Woodford?” he asked the officer of the deck as he strode into CIC.

“Sir, sonar reports a submerged contact on the lowed array, dead ahead. He’s below the layer, only moving at five knots. It’s an SSN for sure, and not one of hours. Range is maybe ten thousand yards.” USS New York City was currently moving south above the thermal layer, trailing its towed array below, making counterdetection by the deeper submarine unlikely at this range.

“All right,” Beam said, “nothing too unusual.” lets alter course to the east somewhat and swing around behind him to see if we can get a classification.”

Far to the north, Commander de Bicardi on HMS Trafalgar was just turning his boat around to creep back south at maximum depth when his sonar room reported multiple surface contacts in the second convergence zone to the east. He ordered Trafalgar to turn towards the target and was shortly rewarded with classifications. This group was more interesting that the last, consisting of a slew of amphibious transports including LSTs, LCMs, LPDs, as well as numerous escorts.

“Now this is interesting,” de Bicardi muttered. “Those amphibs are far out here, aren’t they, and with a war on they can only be headed south, either for Iceland or the North Sea. Better get a contact report off now while they’re still distant, then work in and see if we can better a better count and composition of the group.”   

Offline Airborne Rifles

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2015, 01:39:17 PM »
Commander Beam on USS New York City had a decision to make. NYC was trailing a nuclear submarine that they were as yet to identify heading west-northwest at a slow five knots. It was definitely an SSN and definitely not NATO, but the fact that Beam’s sonarmen were as yet unable to identify the type at a mere six thousand yards meant that it must be a newer class of sub. And yet, his orders were to trail boomers and major surface units, not attack boats, and this one was getting close to the western edge of his patrol area. So, option A was to keep trailing the presumed Russian out of the patrol area and try to identify him, which would be difficult to do since, as a more modern sub, he probably had a towed array of his own, or option B, to break off contact, report, and head back to his patrol area in search of more lucrative targets.

Beam decided to go with option B. New York City ascended to send off a contact report. The War warning the Beam received in the process made him mutter, “I guess we’re going with option C.” Then louder, “Weps, we have a firing solution on that skunk?”

“Roger sir,” the weapons officer said, somewhat startled. 

“Well, we’re at war,” Beam said, handing over the message. “Let’s take the shot. We’re going to be some of the first people to get some shots in for our side.  We’ll launch two fish above the layer and keep them there until he hears them, then send them down for the endgame.”

Over the next several minutes New York City descended back down to let its tail hang below the thermal layer and reacquire the target. Once the tracking party had a good solution Beam ordered, “ Make ready tubes one and four. Fire on my mark.”

“Tubes one and four ready sir.”

“Fire one. Fire two.”

The two Mk48 ADCAPs launched from New York City’s torpedo tubes and proceeded above the layer on wire guidance. They ran unnoticed for several minutes and 55 knots and then, “Conn, sonar, he’s heard them sir. He just went to full power! It’s a Victor III, sounds like he’s trying to get to full speed.”

“Send the fish down through the layer,” Beam ordered.

The Soviet sub quickly built up to its maximum speed of 30 knots with the torpedoes on his tail, trying to outrun them. “No return shots,” Weps noted, “he had no idea we are here or and no idea where we are now. H should have at least sent a torpedo back along the bearing of our own torps.”

“Maybe he’s worried about other Russian subs in the area,” remarked Beam.

“There is that, sir.”

The Mk48s inexorably ate up the range between themselves and the Russian sub. The target tried countermeasures, but to no avail. The lead torpedo smashed into the Victor’s propeller shaft the detonation of its warhead ruptured the pressure hull. NYC’s sonarmen listened as the other boat imploded under the pressure of 800 feet of water, then sank to the ocean floor.

“Scratch one Russki sub. Let’s go find some more.”   

Several miles away and several hundred feet above the ocean surface, the sonar technician aboard a Russian Mi-14 ASW helicopter reported to his pilot, “Tovarich captain, I just picked up an explosion on buoy 19, and just a minute ago I thought I heard torpedo motors on buoys 20 and 23!”

“Very well, Vasily, I’ll call the patrol planes and see if we can get some more buoys over here. We’re out of buoys and low on fuel, but it sounds like the bloody Americans are down there making trouble. We’ll see if we can put down a blanket of buoys and see what we can hear.”

“Yes, comrade captain.”

Offline mirth

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2015, 02:35:53 PM »
^ O0
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Offline Freyland

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2015, 04:34:38 PM »
Enjoyed the first, grateful for this one.  Thanks!

Side note, I'm terribly ignorant about sub warfare.  How does a sub detect another sub without itself being detected, particularly since you described ascending some distance?  And what is, "the layer"?

Offline OJsDad

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2015, 05:56:26 PM »
I think I can answer the first part.  Subs sonar have blind spots, usually in the aft section where the propellers cause a disruption in the water.  Also, note that the subs battle described above was with inactive sonar, not active.  That means they are just listening not sending out sound looking for a bounce back return. 

The Layer can be described here;  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermocline.

Basically, it keeps a lot of sub sounds from getting through.

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Offline Freyland

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2015, 06:28:16 PM »
Thanks for that.

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2015, 07:01:39 PM »
Freyland, if you haven't read them before, read Hunt For Red October and Red Storm Rising.  Both are Tom Clancy books and are from the '80's, but both will talk a fair about of submarine warfare and ASW tactics.
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Offline Staggerwing

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2015, 07:57:52 PM »
A great (nonfiction) read is Blind Man's Bluff which gets into a lot of the missions preformed by the US subs.

There's also a great sub novel set in (iirc) the late 60's called To Kill the Potemkin. It strikes a very different tone than Clancy's books do.
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Offline Freyland

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2015, 08:13:55 PM »
Thank you.  I used to read avidly, anything really, but all luxuries have really taken a back seat over the last few years.  Even my beloved PC gaming.  Don't know how you guys do it, particularly Jarhead.

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Re: Northern Fury 2: X-Ray Station - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2015, 08:23:30 PM »
At the northern edge of X-Ray station Commander de Bicardi on HMS Trafalgar was maneuvering his boat towards the thundering herd of Russian amphibious transports and escorts moving west at 16 knots. Over the past two hours his sonarmen had lost contact with the Russian ships as they passed out of the first convergence zone at about 30 miles and then reestablished contact as his boat and the Russian task group neared each other on reciprocal bearings. At his point Trafalgar’s sonar had begun to pick up the lead escorts against the background noise of the rather loud amphibs, and de Dicardi ordered his sub to angle south.


“We shall try to avoid the lead escorts and let them pass, then turn sharply north and try to run in among the sheep. We will launch a spread of torpedoes against the largest amphibs, then reload with Harpoons and launch these to foil any counterattack. Then we will take advantage of our own bedlam to slip away east,” he briefed his officers in his maddeningly aristocratic yet professional clipped prose.


As the Russian ships began to pass to port of Trafalgar’s east-southeast creeping course, de Bicardi’s cockney lead sonarman was able to get a complete picture of the formation.


“Sir,” he briefed, “the Ivans ‘ave got a strong escort. Up front is a Krivak-class frigate, an ‘ese followed by an Udaloy, a Kresta-class cruiser, and two Sovremeny’s leading what looks like more ‘an twelve amphibs of dif’rent types ‘an classes, all bunched into a tight column behind the Kresta. Then behind and to the port and starboard of these is two Kashins bringing up the rear.”


“Those Kashin’s are the weak spot,” commented de Bicardi, “we shall move into the column ahead of them but behind those Sovremenys. This should allow us to get among the transports without having to move to quickly and generate noise. All right, let’s be about it. ‘England expects’ and all that.”


As the lead Soviet escorts passed abeam of Trafalgar de Bicardi ordered a turn due north, staying above the thermocline to try to avoid the Udaloy’s towed array. The Russian transports thundered now on a perpendicular course ten miles ahead, still well beyond the range of Trafalgar’s under-performing Tigerfish torpedoes. Over the next thirty minutes Trafalgar worked northward, passing dangerously close beneath the southernmost Kashin-class destroyer.

Then, just as de Bicardi and his crew began to breathe easier in anticipation of the excitement of getting in among the transports, the cockney sonarman called, “sir! Torpedo in the water bearing three-three-zero relative! It looks to be about six thousand meters distant.”

“Calm down, calm down,” admonished de Bicardi. “Helm, be so good as to make your depth eight hundred feet. DO not increase speed.” Trafalgar quietly passed under the layer and went deep and quiet.

Chastened, the sonarman reported again after a few minutes, “it doesn’t have us sir.”

“But they’ve certainly gotten a sniff of us,” mused the captain. “We’ll have to adjust our plan of attack. Torpedo room, reload tubes one through four with Harpoons, if you please.” Trafalgar carried only four of the missiles. “We shall come back up once the Sov formation has passed and launch on the transports from behind, where they sonar sensors and air defenses are weakest.”

Over the next several minutes as Trafalgar dove deep the sailors in the torpedo room labored to remove the Tigerfish torpedoes from four of the sub’s five tubes and replace them with the four Harpoon missiles. Once the task was complete, de Bicardi ordered his boat to ascend once again. By this point Trafalgar, creeping north at five knots, had passed astern of the Soviet formation, and the individual ships were easily identifiable on the British sub’s sonar displays.

“Select four of the nearest LSTs as targets for the missiles and launch on my mark,” ordered the captain.

“All ready sir.”

“Fire!”


Soviet Rear Admiral Stolich aboard BPK Krondstadt, the Kresta II-class cruiser acting as flagship of the amphibious task force, was nervous. One of his escorts had reported several minutes earlier that they had heard what they believed were reactor noises on the southern flank of his formation. He had ordered a Metel ant-submarine missile launched into the area to see if they could spook whatever enemy menace was there, but to no avail. Now he continued westward in the hope that speed would be his best defense against any NATO submarines that might be there.

Just as he was reaching for his glass mug of tea set in a metal holder, and officer on the flag bridge called out, “Tovarich Admiral, missiles!”

One by one Trafalgar’s Harpoons broached the surface and ignited their rocket motors, temporarily lighting up the dark Arctic sky to the east and behind the Russian ships. The missiles fanned out from their launch point, streaking and wave top level towards four of the Russian transports.

Back aboard Trafalgar, de Bicardi ordered a sharp turn to starboard and a rapid descent back below the layer to clear datum from the launch point.


Stolich watched the radar display in horror as the four - there appeared to be four - missiles streaked west into the rear of his formation. Then his to Sovremeny destroyers, already on alert from the sniff the formation had gotten earlier, came to light. It was a race between the SAMs from his two best air defense ships and the approaching Harpoons. Missiles leapt off the launchers and first one, then two Harpoons exploded, shredded by the SAMs’ shrapnel. The Harpoons had been launched from too close a range, however, and the remaining two bored in relentlessly. One tore into a Ropucha-class LST, moments before the second impacted an Alligator-class LST, igniting fires and causing flooding in both vessels.

The Russian Admiral was enraged. The troops and equipment on these transports were vital to the Soviet plan to close the Atlantic for the vital early days of the war. “Get that bastard!” he bellowed into his radio transmitter to the commander of his ASW screen.

Several miles away, another Metel anti-submarine rocket (known to NATO as the SS-N-14 Silex) leapt from the torpedo tube of the formation’s Udaloy destroyer. The rocket lofted out of the water and sped to the terminus of the four enemy missiles, the dropped its torpedo into the water once it reached the predetermined point.


Back aboard Trafalgar, de Bicardi once again heard, “torpedo in the water! It’s right above us sir!”

“All stop!” the captain ordered, some stress finally creeping into his voice. Trafalgar’s pump jet propulsion ceased, and the sub glided through the water, a shadow in the deep. “Sonar, a report if you please.”

“It’s passing in front of us sir, port to starboard, above the layer. Now it’s passing down our starboard side. It sounds like it’s doing circles around us, searching. Hasn’t got us, sir.”

The UGMT-1 Orlan torpedo continued to circle around the point in the sea where Trafalgar now lay motionless. After several minutes it ran out of fuel and sank to the bottom. But just as the British crew was beginning to heave a sigh of relief, a second torpedo splashed into the water almost in the same spot where the first had circled. De Bicardi waited while this one too completed its fruitless search, then ordered five knots on a northeasterly course. Two more torpedoes splashed into the water astern of the British sub. This time their active seekers found Trafalgar, and both fish bored in. One was lured away by a noisemaker decoy but the other motored through the bubbles and continued to close the distance. At the last minute de Bicardi, whose boat was now working up to flank speed, ordered a radical turn to port. The Orlan torpedo closed...and swam through the knuckle of water created by Trafalgar’s wake without exploding. The sonar room’s cockney-accented chief looked out into the bridge and thought he actually saw some sweat trickle down his captain’s high forehead.

Two more SS-N-14s fell into the water well to the rear of Trafalgar, but these were too distant to have any hope of detecting the British sub.

“Well,” de Bicardi said to no one in particular in his clipped accent, “that was somewhat exciting.”


Back aboard Krondstadt, Stolich was fuming. Two of his precious transports were in flames and he hadn’t even been able to exact revenge on the offending enemy submarine. He had expended valuable ordnance in an attempt to flush out the enemy, but in the end had come up dry. He couldn’t devote any time to effectively hunt the submarine. His remaining transports needed to get to their destination on time, and he didn’t want to give the NATO sub yet another shot. One of his Kashins had taken the surviving crew off of the the Ropuchka, but the commander of the Alligator (Tepir in Russian) LST was reporting that his fires and flooding were under control and that he might be able to restore engine power in a few hours. Stolich ordered him to continue, but warned him that he couldn’t devote any escorts to protect him. The Russian amphibious group continued west, now short two of its transports.

A few hours later Trafalgar came to periscope depth. De Bicardi noted the obviously sinking Ropuchka and then saw the Alligator which appeared to be making very slow progress westwards. A Tigerfish torpedo was dispatched and one more thundering explosion lit up the Arctic night. Trafalgar headed south, back into X-Ray station.