AAR: Cuban Missile Crisis
By Freek Schepers
After reading and re-reading my orders and the accompanying Rules of Engagement [ROE] from SACLant, I immediately double-checked to make certain that all of my units had their weapons Weapons on Safe status and were locked down. I certainly didn't want to be the initiator of nuclear shooting war!
I realized that many of my vessels were a long distance from the line that the President had designated as the limit of the quarantine zone. Therefore, I ordered all vessels in Guantanamo Bay to sortie. As well, much of NavSurfLant was currently positioned near Florida and Cuba. I elected to gamble and meet the freighters in a show of force at the boundaries of the Exclusion zone. My orders were quite clear. Under no circumstances was I to allow them entry into the Quarantine Zone. All vessels were ordered to full speed and a Combat Air Patrol [CAP] was launched from Guantanamo Bay. If this turned out to be a shooting war, she could expect to be attacked within minutes of it starting. I was very concerned about TF Iwo Jima. She was deep in the Caribbean, far from support, and pretty much limited by the search range of her helos.
Sabre fighters were launched to escort my Voodoo recon planes from MacDill. Additional Sabres and Starfighters were also ordered aloft as Barrier CAPs [BarCAPs] from Key West and Homestead AFBs. Very specific orders were given to the flight leaders that they were to remain over international waters and not to fire unless fired upon. The disciplined men of Naval Aviation did not bat an eyelash in the face of these orders and I knew that they would follow them to the letter.
With fighters leading the way and, hopefully, clearing a path in front of any potential opposition, I launched my precious U-2 spy plane. Contrary to normal doctrine, I would try to make the ingress at low level and only climb to take photos when closer to the objective. I hoped that the high-flying fighter escorts and Voodoo reconnaissance planes would distract the enemy sufficiently so that the U-2 would be unmolested in her mission. I would also try to send her around the known air defences and through the back door.
Starfighters from Key West were the first to meet aircraft rising from the Ciudad de Libertad airbase. They were approached on an intercept profile, but my orders forbade early engagement. They would have to prove themselves hostile before I was allowed to take action. The fighters turned out be Fishbeds and my planes were soon to be on the receiving end of Atoll missiles! While one flight evaded, the second flight launched six Sidewinders with no effect. The pilots went to Afterburner and activated their internal cannon. In violent Air-Combat Manoeuvres [ACM], both Fishbeds were shredded by the M61 cannon fire. A Beagle patrol plane was detected. The fighters must have been the assigned escort for this asset. As one flight approached her, the radar warning receiver went wild. A Goa SAM had been fired! Again, the men undertook wild evasive manoeuvres. This was going to be the common theme throughout the day. The men were lucky this time as the SAMs ran out of fuel.
The Beagle appeared to be unprotected so one flight of 3 Starfighters approached her and set themselves up in her 'Six-O'clock' position. However, to their surprise, her gunners opened fire and killed two of the F-104s! The surviving fighter immediately returned fire and killed the Cuban, but it was small consolation for the loss of his two squadron mates.
Two more Fishbeds rose to challenge the F-104s and managed to kill two of them with only the single loss of a Fishbed before all belligerents were forced to break off combat and return to base. Thus far, Cuba was leading in the scoring race, 4:3. The Sabre pilots from Homestead AFB heard the sad report over their guard frequencies and vowed revenge. Now, if only the Cuban pilots would co-operate. They met CAPs launched from Sagua La Grande AB but were not fired upon. The enemy was not co-operating and this frustrated them. Finally, after a series of feints, one Cuban loosed his Atoll missiles. They were evaded and he was closed and killed by guns after a swirling dance of death.
Two more Fishbeds met my relief CAP from Key West. This time, both MiGs were downed for the loss of a Crusader. The score was now tied but the men wanted a win, not a tie.
The Great Game moved back to Sagua La Grande. More Goa SAMs rose in opposition only to fall back into the sea when out of fuel. The MiGs fared better with both sides exchanging planes and lives. The score would remain tied.
As hoped, the fighter pilots were distracting the air defences and allowing the U-2 pilot to make his run on Libertad unopposed. The cost was high in both men and planes. In the midst of the battle, my Skyraider Electronic Warfare [EW] bird suddenly blinked off of the screen! Curse all radar operators. A marauding Fresco fighter had evidently crept within range of her without anyone noticing and shot her down. Now all of my aircraft would be naked against the Cuban radar.
Once Libertad was photographed, the U-2 dove back into the weeds and headed for St. Julien Air Base [AB] on the western tip of the island. She was in good company with her escorts. After another swirling battle with Frescoes and more SAMs, the U-2 was able to photograph the IRBM sites and leave. The price was 4 more fighters. The air force was learning a very hard lesson; aerial gunnery was not obsolescent even in the age of AAMs.
In their turn, Sagua La Grande AB and Holguin AB were reconnoitred and photographed using the same swarming technique. Multiple flights of fighters would distract the defenders so that the U-2 was unmolested. The price of admission was paid by the fighters. After these orders were fulfilled, I chose to adopt a more defensive stance. Instead of aggressive Target CAPs [TarCAP], I re-assigned my fighters to Barrier CAPs [BarCAP] midway between Cuban bases and Florida. Only one further 'Incident' was encountered. A Beagle raid was detected by Gitmo originating from Holguin AB. I managed to scramble sufficient Phantom interceptors to crush the raiders, but elected not to retaliate against the base. The Russian and Cuban installations were so intermingled that I was worried about accidentally attacking a Russian installation and provoking a nuclear response. Today, discretion would definitely be the better part of valour.
On the high seas, I found myself in a quandry. The Quarantine zone was a large area and it was flooded with unknown contacts. I launched my Neptune Maritime Patrol Aircraft [MPA] to find and classify every ship. Unfortunately, radar can only tell me that a contact exists. It cannot tell you the nationality of the vessel. Thus, I had to overfly and positively identify each and every vessel; a long and arduous process.
As each of my groups raced to the edge of the Exclusion zone, the ASW co-ordinator aboard CVAN Enterprise reported, "Probable submarine contact in the Torpedo Danger Zone!" Somehow, a suspected submarine had managed to evade my escorts and ensconced herself between the CVAN and my destroyers! The battle group commander immediately ordered all ships to scatter at flank speed and launched 4 helos to prosecute this contact. It was not a minute too soon, either, as torpedo contacts were soon reported. The quick response prevented any damage. The confirmed hostility of the unknown submarine quickly ensured her destruction at the hands of the helo pilots.
As my MPA chased down vessels of all nationalities, they were able to positively identify six merchants flying the Hammer and Sickle. However, intelligence had reported seven such vessels leaving Soviet ports. A Golf-class SSG was even spotted running on the surface within the quarantine zone. I decided to give her a wide berth as her direction of travel was outward-bound.
Six merchants were intercepted before they could cross into the Quarantine zone and they were 'escorted' away from the area. I finally managed to find the elusive seventh merchant, but the Essex PhibRon was simply too far away to intercept her before she reached the barrier. Luckily, she did not cross the barrier as all merchants had apparently received orders to return. The world would not be destroyed in a nuclear nightmare this day, but I lost the game because I did not intercept her before she reached the zone.
This is a really neat scenario. Freek has done a good job simulating the ROE present during those 13 Days in October. Combat is possible and permitted, but the player must take extreme care in what and who he engages. Otherwise, the game crosses the nuclear threshold and into nuclear holocaust. An excellent job re-creating the Crisis on the High Seas. Thanks for putting it together.
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