Author Topic: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR  (Read 13975 times)

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Offline Airborne Rifles

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #30 on: April 02, 2016, 03:24:12 PM »
As the situation now stood, the Soviets were in tentative control of the airspace over the Faroe Islands, patrolled by Su-33s from the Kuznetsov, while the British Tornadoes and Phantoms patrolled over the Shetlands to the southwest. The British would need to push the Soviet patrols back from the Faroes, at least temporarily, if the dawn paratroop drop by 1 and 3 Para out of RAF Brize Norton in the south was to have any chance of success. The Harrier pilots aboard Invincible, after discussing the imperative with the men who had already engaged the powerful Soviet fighters and survived, settled upon a tactic they hoped would neutralize the Russians’ advantages in speed and performance. The squadron commander went off to raise RAF Leuchars on the radio to work out the coordination.

It took over an hour to get the pieces in place. A pair of Harriers had taken off from Invincible and headed northeast until they were several dozen miles southeast of the patrolling Soviet fighters. A flight of four Tornadoe pilots circled several miles to the Harriers’ southeast. On order from the AWACS, the Harrier drivers turned towards the closest pair of patrolling Russians and lit off their radars. The Russian pilots responded immediately, turning towards the threat and going to afterburner.

The Sukois’ pilots were met by four AMRAAMs, which they attempted to evade. One succeeded, but his wingman’s aircraft tumbled into the sea. The surviving Russian pilot, enraged, pressed his pursuit of the now withdrawing Harriers. He was just pulling within range of the trailing one when his RWR started to squawk that he had been locked onto by a hostile radar. Looking up he could make out the fiery specks of two Sky Flash missiles, fired by the oncoming Tornadoes, arcing towards him. He threw his fighter into a defensive maneuver to shake the missiles and succeeded, at the cost of losing the chance to engage the Harriers. The maneuver also bled his speed and altitude so that when the second pair of Sky Flash missiles arrived there was little he could do but pray. It didn’t work, as the second missile exploded, sending shrapnel ripping into his cockpit.

The NATO pilots were elated with the success of their tactic. Using the AMRAAM armed Harriers as bait put the Russians in a bind because they could not ignore the jets longer-ranged missiles, but pursuing the jump jets exposed them to concentrated fire from the Tornadoes. In the next couple of hours the British pilots executed two more of these ambushes, downing several more Su-33s for the cost of a Harrier and a Tornado. The British commander began to feel confident that he could clear the skies over the Faroes before the Paras arrived.

The Russians weren’t sitting on their heels either, however. A surprise low-level dash by a pair of Su-33 pilots managed to catch the British Harrier CAP over the Invincible group out of position. The Russians penetrated the outer screen of the task force and made for a pair of Invincible’s helicopters at the northern end of the formation. Though the helicopter pilots were maneuvering for their lives, they never had a chance. Russian missiles slammed both of the craft down into the sea. Worse, these had been the Task group’s local AEW platforms. As the Russians escaped northward, chased by Sea Dart missiles which fell into the sea, the situational awareness for the British fleet stood much reduced.

Though the Kuznetsov was drawing closer the Faroes, making it easier for the Russian pilots to keep their patrols over the islands, the losses inflicted by the British pilots’ ambush tactics were such that the Russian naval aviators were now forced to pull back, mingling their patrol with that of the Russian carrier’s CAP.

Dawn was now breaking to the southeast. The rising sun saw two streams of C-130 transports crossing northward over Scotland. They carried two battalions of the Parachute Regiment, who would jump into Vagar and Tingwall to secure those airfields from the Soviets. The British commander felt confident enough in his situation to leave the less capable Phantoms to protect the drop on the Shetlands while he ordered his Tornado pilots with their longer-ranged TEMP mod Sky Flash missiles to forestall any Russian interference over the Faroes. The Harriers would patrol the Faroes airspace as well, but the stocks of AMRAAMs on Invincible were almost exhausted, meaning that the jump-jets’ air-to-air usefulness would soon be radically reduced.

As it turned out, the Soviets didn’t contest either drop. The Hercules transports came in low over both drop zones and lines of parachutes blossomed out of plane after plane. The British paratroopers hit the tarmac and the surrounding snowfields in tight stick patterns. The soldiers shrugged out of their harnesses, took their weapons out of the padded jump cases, shouldered their rucksacks, and moved out to their assembly points. Squads formed up, then platoons, and soon units were moving out in tactical formation to occupy their defensive positions. Both island chains were now more or less secure from Soviet invasion.

The Soviet carrier groups continued south, however. The group centered on the smaller helicopter carrier Baku was now angling its course southwest towards the Faroes. The Kuzetsov was further north and showed no signs of altering its course, which would eventually bring that formation to the west of the islands. The admiral commanding  HMS Invincible and her escorts had placed his task group on a course that would put them into a blocking position between the two groups of islands, from whence he could engage the smaller Soviet group, if the conditions permitted.

To facilitate those favorable conditions, the Buccaneers and Jaguars at RAF Lossiemouth were preparing a strike on that group that would hopefully weaken it enough so that Invincible’s strike could be decisive.

Offline Airborne Rifles

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #31 on: April 07, 2016, 06:28:36 PM »
While the Buccaneers and Jaguars readied for their strike mission at RAF Lossiemouth and the Invincible Task Group rendezvoused with the two surviving frigates of TG De Ruyter between the Shetlands and Faroes, the Admiral's staff aboard the British carrier worked to establish communications with the Paras on the ground at both Vagar and Tingwall. To this end, Invincible dispatched two helicopters, one to each airfield, carrying small contingents of Royal Marines with communication equipment so that the soldiers could communicate with their naval support offshore.

The helicopter flying to the more southerly Shetlands arrived at its destination first without incident, but the bird destined for the Faroes became the center of an aerial drama that drew in increasing numbers of fighters from both sides.

The helicopter with its cargo of Royal Marines was detected by a two-ship CAP of Su-33s who had been patrolling north of the Faroes after their earlier scrapes with the British Harriers and Tornadoes had forced them out of the airspace directly over the islands. Sensing an opportunity for an easy kill the two Soviet pilots accelerated to full military power and vectored onto the lone contact. Seeing this, the controllers aboard the British AWACS over Scotland ordered the two pilots of Invincible's CAP, composed of AMRAAM armed Harriers and which had been shadowing the helicopter at a distance, to intervene to protect the transport.

The two British aviators sped north as fast as their airframes could carry them, interposing themselves between the vulnerable helicopter and the oncoming Russians. The range closed, and four AMRAAMs streaked northwest into the predawn darkness. The Russians returned fire, launching their own long-range missiles, but the British weapons had the advantage. Both Soviet fighters were shattered by shrapnel from exploding warheads. The Russian missiles, left without guidance, flew on harmlessly until they ran out of fuel. The first attack had been defeated, but TG Invincible was now entirely out of the wonderful AMRAAM missiles that had given them such an advantage.

As the Harrier pilots withdrew, another Soviet Su-33 pilot, this time alone, turned his big naval fighter towards the low-flying helicopter and accelerated. This threat fell to the pilots of two Tornado pilots, who were trailing the helicopter by several miles, to deal with. A pair of Sky Flash TEMP Mod missiles arced northwestward towards the lone blue and grey painted Russian fighter. The Soviet pilot tried to evade and withdraw, surprised by this new threat after the Harriers, but he couldn’t avoid the second missile, which exploded into his aircraft as he was pulling out of his evasive maneuver for the first. A few minutes later a fourth Su-33 attempted to dash in from the north, but this one two was engaged and destroyed by the escorting Tornado drivers with their much longer-ranged missiles.

The helicopter flared and landed at Vagar, its occupants unaware that they had been the center of a fierce battle that had netted the NATO air forces tentative control over the Faroe islands. With the Kuznetsov’s air group heavily attrited, the NATO fliers could concentrate on their first purely offensive mission of the day. As the helicopter headed back towards Invincible, Buccaneers and Jaguars began to roll down the runway at Lossiemouth.

Offline Airborne Rifles

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #32 on: April 07, 2016, 07:11:52 PM »
The squadron of Buccaneers formed up over RAF Lossiemouth for the strike on the Kiev-class carrier Baku and her escorts, which were now passing from northeast to southwest on a course for the Faroe Islands. The plan was to attempt a heavy strike on the carrier, hopefully crippling her, so that the Invincible task group, reinforced by the remnants of Task Group De Ruyter could engage the Russians in a decisive surface action. The Russian task group had passed below the 62nd parallel, meaning it was fair game for the Scotland based strike aircraft.

The strike package suffered from some serious weaknesses. The Buccaneers carried the Sea Eagle sea-skimming missile, which far outranged any of the defensive systems carried by the Soviet ships, but there were only sixteen of the missiles available. The rest of the Buccaneers were armed with either Martel  anti-radiation missiles or dumb bombs. The squadron of Jaguars, following behind, was armed entirely with unguided ordnance, a mix of dumb bombs and 70mm rockets. There were no electronic warfare planes in the package, they all being committed to the fighting in Norway and Germany.

The plan of attack was for the Martel armed Buccaneers to approach to just outside the maximum range of the Soviet SAMs. Then the Sea Eagle armed Bucanneer drivers would loose their missiles in a concentrated salvo against the Russian flagship. As the Soviets lit off their defensive radars, the first group of strike pilots engage them with the Martels, which, with a 300 pound warhead, were potently destructive weapons in their own right. The Jaguars would then sweep in to clean up the survivors.

The Buccaneers swept in at the flank of the Soviet formation from the southeast. The airspace above the formation had already been cleared of the solitary Soviet fighter aloft, and unlucky Yak-38, by a sweep of Tornadoes whose pilots had engaged the aircraft from beyond the reach of the Soviet SAMs. On an order from the strike commander, sixteen Sea Eagle missiles dropped from their mounts, their engines ignited, and the dropped to wavetop level to speed towards the flattop.

As the missiles crossed into the Soviets’ engagement envelope the Russian crews began to turn on their radars. Defensive missiles left launchers on the Russians ships atop fiery contrail in the grey morning light, and the SEAD Buccaneers responded by launching their supersonic Martels.

The NATO attack suffered from the fact that the Martels had to be programmed before takeoff for the type of radar they would engage. This made the SEAD effort uncoordinated at Buccaneer pilots maneuvered to try to get a shot at ‘their’ radar. In the time it took them to do so one Sea Eagle after another was shot down by SA-N-9s launched by Baku and her escorting Udaloy-class destroyer. The weight of the NAT O salvo just wasn’t heavy enough, and the last Sea Eagle blew apart more than three miles from the Baku, its target, allowing the Russian crews to concentrate their fire on the Martels approaching several ships from multiple vectors.

These more difficult targets were also engaged effectively, but now the Soviets were running out of their ready supply of defensive missiles. Switching off their radars and ringing up flank speed saved several of the escorts from damage, but not all. Three missiles dove into the Udaloy and exploded, starting fires that quickly raged out of control. Two more struck the nearest Krivak-class frigate’s fantail, blowing shrapnel into the ship’s engine room and causing damage to one of her shafts. Even so, the results of the strike were disappointing, the Soviet defenses in daylight and in the absence of electronic jamming were surprisingly effective. The British strike commander decided to call off the second stage of the attack by his remaining Buccaneers and Jaguars, lacking as they were in stand-off ordnance. The British pilots turned south, frustrated.

The commander of TG Invincible, too, decided that discretion was the better part of valor and that the safeguarding of his carrier at this point in the war was a better option than recklessly flinging his ships against a Russian task group that was well-endowed with standoff anti-ship missiles and that could be supported at any time by missile-armed bombers. Invincible and her escorts turned south. At the same time the Russian commander of the Baku group, who had kept his force on a steady course for the Faroes until this point, ordered his ships to turn north and disengage as well.

TG De Ruyter did get some measure of revenge for the losses they had suffered. The two ships of the task group detached from the Invincible and sprinted north for a couple of hours until they were in range of the two stricken Soviet ships, which were themselves struggling to keep up with their withdrawing task group. The NATO crews fired two Harpoons each, which skimmed northward. The Soviet crews, focused on fighting the fires and flooding in their damaged vessels, never even saw the missiles coming. Their first indication that they were under attack was the detonation of the first Harpoon’s thousand pound warhead as it plowed into the fantail of the Udaloy. Three more explosions followed in quick succession.

Both Soviet ships were now wrecks, and the captains ordered abandon ship. The sailors of TG De Ruyter had at least been avenged. Now the Dutch survivors turned back south for the protection of the Royal Navy.

The Battle of the Shetlands and Faroes had checked the Soviet southward advance. While the NATO forces had failed to inflict crippling losses on the Red Banner Northern Fleet, they had managed to check its advance. This was important, as it would be another several days before the Americans could bring more than one of their own carriers to bear in the theater. Moreover, the Kuznetsov’s air group had been severely depleted and an attempt to land Soviet Naval infantry in the islands had been soundly defeated. The Paras were now entrenched and there would be very little the Soviets could do at this point to dig them out.

Offline mirth

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #33 on: April 07, 2016, 07:29:38 PM »
Love all of it!
"45 minutes of pooping Tribbles being juggled by a drunken Horta would be better than Season 1 of TNG." - SirAndrewD

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Offline Excroat3

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #34 on: April 07, 2016, 08:18:03 PM »
Great work!  I looked at NF 8 real quick and it looks VERY interesting (that's an understatement, 1208 individual units!)  :o  Can't wait for the next installment!

Offline Airborne Rifles

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #35 on: April 08, 2016, 03:57:45 AM »
Yeah, I'm starting to play through it now. It's huge, not just in number of units but also geographic extent.

Offline Sir Slash

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #36 on: April 08, 2016, 08:59:33 AM »
Great one Airborne. Looking forward to the next AAR.
"Take a look at that". Sgt. Wilkerson-- CMBN. His last words after spotting a German tank on the other side of a hedgerow.

Offline Gunner98

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #37 on: April 08, 2016, 09:54:43 AM »
NF 8 is the cornerstone of the whole campaign, hope you enjoy it.

Great AAR...AR

B

Offline KyzBP

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Re: Northern Fury 7: Plug the Gap - a CMANO AAR
« Reply #38 on: April 09, 2016, 09:04:43 AM »
I knew your plan was in trouble when I thought to myself "That's how I would do it."

Great stuff.  Keep it up.