Okay, I'm late to this thread and I haven't read it yet, so feel free to ignore my questions if they have been answered already.
- Why a fixed installation for the UCAV base?
Because it is intended to survive disruption to the satellite network used to control drones over greater distances and provide localised air support over the Strait
Isn't that a bit "ex post" logic?
I presume that the storyline overall is that the US are taken by surprise but that the UCAV squadron ultimately makes the difference between defeat and a successful defense. Fair enough, you need the base in the vicinity in order to influence the situaiton, but why would the US plan to set upo the base without knowing that their satellite nework will soon be rendered useless?
Wouldn't the Pentagon rather opt for a carrier group?
I mean, I like hollowed-out volcano lairs like every other guy (even if it technically isn't a volcano). But the reason why the Pentagon today isn't hollowing out dormant volcanos all over the globe is that it's expensive, gives the enemy a fixed location once that it is discovered (which is only a matter of time, once that you actually use it), and you need to have the conflict in the vicinity of the base. That's why carrier groups - while still being so horrendously expensive that only the US can afford several of them - are considered the better option: They are more flexible than forward positioning, and still cheaper than a "forward" positioning that spans the whole globe.
Maybe the submarine threat (China?) is considered to high that carrier groups are considered near-obsolete again. But that would suggest a shift of the power balance against the USA far more dramatic than it is depicted in the story so far. A Pacific that is now deemed a decidedly hostile environment for CGs would bring vast implications, is all I'm saying. Or maybe there are no carrier groups anymore, and the USAF is banking entirely on the satellite network. But then again the question arises, does the US have reason to believe that the sat network is unreliable/vulnerable, and if so, is Diomede a proof of concept for forward positioning? Even then the costs for a global set of bases, even if they are small, would be cost prohibitive. So maybe they are doing it only in extremely sensitive/important locations. Maybe only the Navy recognizes the issue because their mindset is maritime, but they don't have the necessary political clout to turn the US policy around. Maybe it's just a single Admiral going "rogue" with this experimental setup, but who gave him the blessing/appropriated the necessary funds, given that there has been a dedicated attempt to obfuscate the existence of the base.
Why put it directly on a tiny island in the middle of a narrow strait that undoubtedly, after the recession of ice allows a regular shipping route, will receive more or less intense surveillance?
As above. It isn’t intended to conduct constant air ops, just in time of need. Bit like an ICBM silo but more flexible.
As above, that's ex post logic to enable the story.
The story is good, but it's still a plot hole.
Even IF the strait becomes ice-free most of the time, there will be periods where everything freezes over again, potentially forcing operational downtimes
Drone launch and recovery would not be interrupted by ice as the drones don’t take off or land on the surface of the sea. The take off through a chute emerging halfway up a cliff face and fly inside the cave mouth to land on the water inside the cave, which has been artificially enlarged. The pond inside can be kept from freezing over, but good point, would that mean there would be visible melted water at the mouth of the cave which might look strange? That might need camouflaging from surveillance.
Well, to me that is potential for drama, not necessarily something that needs to be "solved" in the sense of "Man, they thought of everything!
Maybe El Nino is particularly strong this year resulting in a cold spell that saves the Russians from immediate defeat and gives them time to analyze what it is that hit them, and why all of a sudden it no longer operates. Well, it's your story.
Still, an ice berg blocking the glide path into the cave and not drifting away for a while might be one of those complications. Or the supply subs can't get through because of the iceberg blocking the access passage.
Logistics. Assuming that you can launch and retrieve the UCAVs without being detected, how to you supply the base (undetected). The only means to keep it supplied in a covert manner would be submarines, requiring dedicated supply subs and regular runs to swap personnel. Traffic analysis will eventually blow the cover of the secret base, it's only a matter of time until enough sonar tracks will have been acquired to indicate activity around that specific location
The base does have a sub docking facility through which it can be supplied and was originally envisaged as a covert anti ship missile and sub resupply facility . But most resupply of materiel and personnel is done overtly because there is a radar facility on top of the island.
Yeah, but at some point the Russians' attention will be drawn to that stupid radar station - like, why is it still active, why was it built if it's near obsolete/can be easily jammed, why do the Americans keep it running a week into the conflict if it is irrelevant, etc.; will they attempt to seize it with Spetsnats, and what do they find? Is the entrance to the base below a trap door under the rug? Will the Spetsnats never make it to the island because the UCAVs shoot down the helicopters, and US submarines interdict boats attempting to make a landing? Why are the US so stubbornly defending the island when they have much bigger problems elsewhere?
If the US have a solution to everything or if the Russians are too stupid it's going to be boring.
Anyway, my point is that eventually the location and the nature of the base must be discovered by the Russians. Both from a narrative point of view as well as from the perspective of internal consistency.
It is largely automated, so the personnel stationed there are actually working below in the covert facility, not above ground, in the radar facility. But because of the radar facility people and supplies can be brought over by ship and chopper, dropped at the radar facility above, and then freighted down under the rock. Traffic analysis would just show traffic consistent with a major radar and sea surveillance facility. Sub resupply would be very limited.
That seems to depend entirely on the amount of ordnance that the UCAVs will expend during the campaign. Even if they have a nuclear reactor to generate their own H2 fuel (you'd allso need a facility to liquefy the gas...), the missiles and bombs would need to get shipped in, and they would not be part of what normally goes into a Radar station. Also, they have at least five times as many people as the radar station has that need to get supplied. Overt resupply will have its limits, particularly in contested airspace (assuming that the Russians are
successful in gaining a foothold, initially).
So, as the Russian commander _I_ at least would ask myself what the purpose of this station is and why I shouldn't simply send a HARM to switch it off. Or, if that's deemed too escalatory, a platoon of special forces to seize the installation. One way or the other, the result will have grave consequences.
There is redundancy built in, in case the radar / transmision facility on top of the rock is wiped out, with an undersea transmission antenna buried in the sea floor.
Fine, but that'll be the vector for Russian ELINT. "We blew the radar station, yet something's still transmitting. WTF? Let's go and have a closer look!"
I’ll keep moving forward with the story as is, won’t go back re-edit, use all this good input for the manuscript when I get around to finalising it.
Definitely, please. I do not mean to shoot down the story. Like you said, critical questions are (hopefully) useful to make the story even better.