Hold Fast!

By Wargamer Staff 29 Oct 2010 0

After Action Report: Hold Fast! by Brad Leyte

A scenario by Patrick Howard (aka rainman)

'Hold Fast!' is a HCE scenario for the EC2003 GIUK Battleset. I played the scenario from the BLUE side.

?The year is 2012 and the balance of power in the world is shifting. The American economic crisis of 2009, along with the discovery of vast oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico, has led the US to withdraw from world leadership, leaving a huge vacuum. Russia and China have allied to fill this gap, and a poorly organized alliance of India, The EU, and the ASEAN nations (with the exception of Myanmar, which has allied with China) are trying to stem the tide. This scenario explores the ability of the Royal Navy to control the GIUK gap (the naval chokepoints consisting of the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK) with minimal assistance from other EU nations. In the days of "wooden ships and iron men" a British officer would command his gun deck crew to "hold fast" and endure the first enemy broadside with discipline while holding fire until closing into killing range. Hold Fast!

Resistance has ended in Norway, and Sweden has, with the exception of a few rogue units, declared its neutrality. The Russian occupation of Iceland has been unopposed so far, and EU forces are desperately trying to gain control of the situation on the North Atlantic. The Russian government has offered an armistice with the EU, threatening a blockade of the Atlantic, cutting off supplies from the neutral USA. Prime Minister Darling of the UK gave his "Last breath against tyranny" speech and threw down the gauntlet. The ghosts of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher are smiling in pride as the UK bets the farm on regaining control of the sea in the GIUK gap.?

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At game start, a Royal Navy carrier group (Task Force Cornwallis) was centered on the brand spanking new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, less than 100 nm south of Rockall. She was being escorted by the Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Dragon, the Type 23 frigates HMS Westminster and HMS St Albans, the Type 22/3 frigate HMS Campbeltown, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker RFA Wave Ruler. The carrier air wing comprised eight F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, twenty GR.7 and GR.9 Harriers, and an assortment of helicopters.

The Trafalgar class nuclear powered attack submarine HMS Torbay was operating some 50 nm west of Rockall, while Sweden?s Gotland class conventional submarine Uppland was situated about 160 nm south of the Faroes.

A second naval surface group, Task Force H, was moored in the Moray Firth in the North Sea. It comprised the Type 22/3 frigate HMS Cornwall, the Swedish Visby corvette Harnosand, a merchant and a roll on/roll off ferry.

Land based air support would come from a mixed contingent of RAF, Royal Norwegian Air Force and Swedish Air Force assets operating out of RAF Kinloss in Scotland.

The Russians had dug in on Iceland, both at the old USAF facility at Keflavik and at a dispersement airfield in the northeast side of the island, near their earlier established East Beachhead. They were also expected to call upon long range aircraft flying out of Taybola on the Kola Peninsula. Intelligence was reporting that the Russian Navy carrier Kuznetsov (and escorts) were moving south through the GIUK Gap to enforce a blockade of the UK and strengthen their grip on Iceland. The intelligence was of dubious reliability, however, as satellite reconnaissance had been lost and it had been five days since the Russian fleet had departed the Kola.

 

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I had been directed to locate and destroy the Kuznetsov group, while degrading the Russian presence on Iceland.

Immediately I set up an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) patrol out of Kinloss, with an E-3 Sentry directed to its patrol position about 125 nm northwest of that airfield, attempting to gain coverage of the approaches from either of Iceland or the Kola.

TF Cornwallis, meanwhile, maintained EMCON (emission control - a condition in which electromagnetic emissions do not exceed a set limit so as to avoid detection) and moved north and east of Rockall, intending to swing widely to the west into the Iceland-UK gap south of the Faroes. The SSN Torbay would shadow the movement of the carrier to the west of Rockall. Uppland would move northward, directly into the Gap. The H group, meanwhile, would depart the Moray Firth and head north to the area of the Orkney and Shetland islands.

The Sentry immediately detected the emissions of Helix AEW helicopter radars in the Gap, some 150 nm west of the Faroes. This was a strong suggestion of a Russian naval force, likely the carrier group.

 

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Hand in hand with the Helix detection, however, came the presence of the radars of both Fulcrums and Flankers. What followed was a strong attempt by the Russians to conduct raids on Kinloss. These raids were soon expanded to attacks on Task Force Cornwallis when a Russian Bear D maritime reconnaissance aircraft found the carrier group. F-35s from the British carrier (thankfully equipped with the excellent Meteor and AMRAAM missiles) and Eurofighter Typhoon F2s scrambling from Kinloss were able to meet the threat. Russian fighter raids were in many cases followed by attempts by Su-34 Fullbacks and even Tu-160 Blackjacks to penetrate the air defenses, but in all cases they were turned back.


Although hard pressed by Su-34 and Tu-22M Backfire raids, TF Cornwallis survived, thanks in large part to effort of the small force of F-35Bs being pushed to its limit. Half of the Joint Strike Fighters were lost in the battle, largely to Su-35.


Uppland, meanwhile, encountered a pair of Stereguschchiy corvettes west of the Faroes, and maneuvered into a position where both were easily torpedoed. Uppland continued west.


While TF Cornwallis moved north and east, the Russian naval force (still not localized or identified, largely due to the continued heavy presence of Russian fighters) moved south through the Gap. I would have to wait until I could muster sufficient force before engaging the enemy task force.


I decided to focus my early attention on the dispersement airfield being used by the Russians on the north side of Iceland. The long range of the Tornado GR.4s permitted them to attack from the north, using ALARM anti-radar missiles to knock out the airfield radar and disable an SA-17 Grizzly air defense battery stationed nearby. Follow up raids by Gripens using Mjolner dispenser weapons and GR.4s dropping LGBs severely damaged the dispersement airfield.


HMS Torbay detected a submarine contact well to the west of Rockall, but it was difficult to localize. Merlin helicopters were dispatched from TF Cornwallis to assist, but it was at the extreme edge of their range and they were only able to drop a few lines of sonobuoys before being compelled to return. Patrols by Russian fighters were also a serious risk. Eventually, after working the contact, Torbay was able to identify the contact as a Yankee SSGN and moved to engage. The Yankee was oblivious to the presence of the British submarine until it was too late. A Spearfish torpedo ended the encounter.


With no raids appearing to come out of the Kola, and the Russian fighter threat severely curtailed by Typhoon patrols, TF Cornwallis was able to move into the Gap proper, and headed southwest toward Keflavik, while H group skirted north in the direction of the East Beachhead. Now I could begin raids on Keflavik in earnest.

To my surprise, a new Russian naval group was detected near Keflavik, seemingly moored offshore or at least holding station nearby. Further reconnaissance revealed the presence of a carrier! Now either the Russian group that had moved south through the Gap earlier was not a carrier group at all, or there were two Russian carriers facing me.

Heavy air defenses around Keflavik, combined with the capable anti-air capability of the nearby Russian ships, notably among them the nuclear powered battlecruiser Petr Velikiy, made tackling the Icelandic airbase a difficult task. Fortunately the long legged Tornado GR.4s carried an ample load of ALARMs. Even so, SA-21 Growlers made approaching Keflavik a dangerous prospect. Eventually, the Russians exhausted their supply of these very long ranged SAMs, and I was able to bring other assets into play ? particularly the Harriers and their Mavericks.

 

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Not long thereafter Task Force Cornwallis came under a new attack, this time from anti-ship SSMs. The Aster 30 cells aboard Defender and Dragon emptied hurriedly, and in the end, the Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans took a crippling hit from an SS-N-27 Sizzler. The missile inflicted heavy damage to the bridge area but in a testament to her good construction and able crew, the ship remarkably stayed afloat. She limped home while the remainder of the task force pushed forward.

A Nimrod patrol to the south of Iceland had established the location of the second Russian naval group, and had identified the ?carrier? as a decoy. That group was now racing back north toward Task Force Cornwallis as the latter closed the distance with Keflavik.

A second Nimrod, patrolling north of Iceland in support of H group, had detected a new enemy naval group west of Jan Mayen. Closer inspection revealed this to be a group of amphibious ships, probably the same group that had established the East Beachhead and was now likely returning to the Kola. This group was, however, too far away to permit an attack against it, and in any event, the British had bigger fish to fry.

HMS Torbay had moved into a position that placed it between the British carrier and the Russian decoy group, and the latter was now blindly racing directly into the SSN?s deadly grasp. Bracketed by a Slava to the west and a Sovremenny to the east, Torbay began engaging with Spearfish. Within a short period of time, Torbay had laid waste to the entire Russian formation.

Victory came with the destruction of the real Kuznetsov group off the coast from Keflavik, once Task Force Cornwallis had been able to close the distance and engage with Harpoons, while Tornados were shooting ALARMs, Harriers shooting Mavericks, F-16s shooting Penguins, and finally, applications of Paveway LGBs. Storm Shadow blasted Keflavik to some extent, but in the end it wasn?t necessary. The ships were the primary target and Keflavik had already been suppressed. There was even an opportunity to hammer a Gorshkov corvette with Brimstone anti-armor missiles.

An all round enjoyable scenario. Although suspicious, I was fooled there for awhile into thinking the closer Russian group was the real Kuznetsov group. Although I didn?t chase it, I was left wondering for a little while whether I would have to. The appearance of the real group came as a surprise. And it was nice to stomp around the old hunting grounds of the GIUK Gap with some new weaponry. Thanks very much to the author for making it.

 

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