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#4401912 - 01/26/18 02:52 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 26 Jan ***** [Re: HeinKill]  
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Haggart Offline
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The Lone Star State
we have a new Tom Clancy !
very good writing .... will there be a movie too
smile


"everything lives by a law, a central balance sustains all"
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#4401926 - 01/26/18 07:42 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 26 Jan [Re: Haggart]  
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Originally Posted by Haggart
we have a new Tom Clancy !
very good writing .... will there be a movie too
smile


Oh yeah, I already have the cast picked out:

Rodriguez: Eva Mendes

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'Bunny' O'Hare: Saoirse Ronan

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Colonel Bondarev: Jason Isaacs

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Devlin McCarthy:

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Carl Williams: Cameron Britton

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Perri Tungyan: Martin Sensmeier

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Private Pyotr Zubkov: Pyotr Skvortsov

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Feel free to suggest alternatives, I'll keep a list to give to the producers wink


[Linked Image]
#4402218 - 01/28/18 01:18 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 26 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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HeinKill Offline
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This is the background for the strategic backstory ... it starts with drought and water restrictions... california, australia, lakes drying up in Russia, now entire cities running out of water...the next world war will be fought over water rights ... with drones

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-28/day-zero-looms-for-cape-town/9368540


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#4402247 - 01/28/18 05:34 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 26 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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Germoney
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?
  • 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?
  • Even IF the strait becomes ice-free most of the time, there will be periods where everything freezes over again, potentially forcing operational downtimes
  • 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

#4402401 - 01/29/18 02:31 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 26 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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Good questions! Exactly the type of pressure testing that can make the end product better!

My responses below, see what you think...

Originally Posted by Ssnake
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 in that environment and a base from which to strike Russian far east targets, Lavrentiya/Anadyr etc. I did think about basing the story around a mobile unit which was based in and around Nome, which can easily be done, but the rationale for the base is not to provide a constant source of operations, rather a covert second strike capability in case other installations in Alaska are compromised and sat links disrupted. And it’s fun to play with the idea of how to build a base under a rock, even if it does stretch the imagination.

Quote
  • 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.

    Quote
  • 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.

    Quote
  • 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. 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.

    Similarly the radar facility serves as cover for the local signals transmission needed for drone pilots to manually pilot the drones for their takeoffs and landings and operations in the immediate area of the Strait. Direct line of sight signals mean real time flight control is possible, whereas for normal drone operations, or operations further afield, satellite links are needed which introduces lag time making control of drone for air to air combat purposes problematic.

    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.

    You raise good questions snake! It might be better inthe end to build the story around a mobile UCAV battalion deployed/dispersed along the coast north and south of Nome. Another alternative is to drop the idea of a UCAV base and focus on unmanned combat submersible vehicles - UCSVs. A covert sub base might make more sense than a covert air base? Or hell, go with both - the mobile UCAVs on the coastline of the mainland, and the covert UCS base under the rock! Double the tech, double the fun!

    Thoughts?

    Fred

    PS, 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.

    Last edited by HeinKill; 01/29/18 04:10 PM.

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    #4402432 - 01/29/18 05:16 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    HeinKill Offline
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    OPENING VOLLEY

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    “ANR, I see rotary winged aircraft on the ground at Savoonga. AI indicates they are Russian Mi-26s, are you getting the feed?” Bunny’s voice didn’t bely her shock. Russian troop transports at a US defense facility?
    Nuclear submarine incident be damned.
    “We copy your feed, NCTAMS-A4. We are showing clear airspace to your south, pull back twenty miles south of your current position and stay out of sight.”
    Bunny made a new waypoint, dragged it across the tactical map with her mouse then watched as her four machines began moving south from Savoonga, using terrain following laser to hop over hills and into depressions to stay off Russian radar. They hadn’t picked up any targeting radar over Savoonga, so if Russian aircraft or ground based radar were operating there, they didn’t get a return off the small profiles of Bunny’s Fantoms.
    “Russian ground forces? What the hell?” Rodriguez said, saying out loud what O’Hare and Halifax were both thinking.
    “I can’t think of any maritime rescue scenario that would require Russian troops to put down inside the perimeter of a US military installation,” Halifax said. “But it explains why ANR can’t raise Savoonga on comms.”
    *
    *
    While the intel from Bunny’s report was being processed back at Elmendorf-Richardson AFB, alerting NORAD about the presence of Russian troops on US soil for the first time in history, Colonel Yevgeny Bondarev was playing cat and mouse with the US Air Force in the Bering Strait between Saint Lawrence and the Alaskan coast.
    His own rules of engagement were anything but standard. He was free to do what he felt necessary to ensure the undisturbed operation of Russian ground forces in the theatre, including pre-emptive attacks on American Air Force targets, if he deemed them a threat. Right now, he could imagine USAF officers were frantically checking with their superiors in the Pentagon to validate Bondarev’s claim that their two Presidents had agreed to a temporary US no-fly zone over Saint Lawrence. Bondarev himself had no idea whether the Russian President had even made a call to his US counterpart, but assumed that if the cover story was to be credible, he would need to have done so.
    The only warning that Bondarev was likely to get if the US high command didn’t buy their cover story, was the high piercing chime of a missile launch warning in his ears before his combat AI seized control of the aircraft and sent it into a screaming spiral earthward. Bondarev didn’t plan to be caught at a complete disadvantage though.
    “Eagle Flight, please assume a position above and behind our American escort.” On his tactical display he saw his newly arriving reinforcements peel up and slowly slide to starboard, wedging the US aircraft between two formations of Russian fighters. It was a classic ‘Mexican standoff’ and would require the US commander to react. How he reacted would tell Bondarev if he was dealing with an American with an aggressive or defensive mindset. An aggressive commander would decide he still had a perfect firing solution on the bulk of the Russian fighter force, even though he was threatened from the rear. A defensive mindset would mean the American was more worried about his own planes and pilots than about challenging the Russian fighters, and he would break away to try to re-establish a tactical advantage, probably by withdrawing to long range missile distance.
    A few tense minutes passed, then Bondarev heard a voice drawl over the Guard channel, “Ivan, your trailing element is so far up my tailpipe that I have to assume you Russians are all a bunch of homosexual ass bandits. Please confirm.” Checking his tactical display, Bondarev saw no sign of the US flight breaking position. He smiled.
    Very well. An aggressive commander. Let us see who blinks first.
    “Raptor, please scramble a further nine Mig-41s from Lavrentiya and vector to my position.”

    [Linked Image]
    *
    *
    Alicia marveled at how cool Bunny remained. She had her wedge of four drones hidden in ground clutter in a shallow valley south of Savoonga. She had a combat AI system that was filtering all the inputs, making sure she didn’t drown in data and only had her attention directed to critical information, but Rodriguez knew her own head would have exploded trying to keep track of it all, at the same time as sending orders to her machines and being ready to execute any one of a hundred tactical options if needed.
    “NCTAMS-A4, this is ANR,” a cool voice broke in over the radio. “We are showing nine more Russian fast movers inbound to Saint Lawrence, bearing 268 degrees, altitude 40,000 feet. Designating enemy flight Beta. We have six F-35s inbound from Eielson to join aircraft already on station over Saint Lawrence… NCTAMS-A4 we need you to…” There was a pause. On one of Bunny’s screens Rodriguez saw the icons for the new Russian fighters appear, speeding toward Saint Lawrence from the Russian mainland. To the East, she saw six icons marking the US reinforcements. There was a massive furball building, and all it would take would be one slip of the trigger finger to turn deadly serious.
    Rodriguez felt the situation unravelling, and heard a new tone of urgency in Bunny’s voice as she broke in on the air controller, “What do you want me to do ANR. Head east to help our fighters there, mix it up with Russian beta flight or stay where I am?”
    “NCTAMS you are to stay in the weeds but prepare to engage enemy flight beta approaching from the west,” the voice said. “Lock them up and await orders. You are not authorized to engage. Repeat, you are not authorized to engage. ANR out.”
    “Acknowledged ANR, lock up enemy B flight, do not engage. NCTAMS out.” Bunny said and pulled up her targeting interface. “Thanks for making up your freaking mind,” she muttered, sending orders to her primary Fantom to turn 180 degrees, going from tracking east to tracking west in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, the radical maneuver meant there was a risk she had popped up on the radar of a Russian air defense system if it was monitoring the combat zone but she needed to get in position to lock and engage the approaching Russian reinforcements. The Russian reserve flight was soon in CUDA range and she drew target boxes around them based on the data feed from NORAD’s long range radar.
    There was no need to activate her own tracking radar and give herself away, yet.
    Rodriguez turned to Halifax. “Sir, do you want us to launch more Fantoms? We have two more in the queue.”
    “Easy Boss,” Halifax murmured. “They’ll call for more cavalry if they think they need it.”
    Rodriguez had launched each Fantom with a mixed air-to-air/air-to-ground ordnance. That gave Bunny 16 of the multi-role intermediate to short ranged CUDAs, and nine targets to fire them at. Her fingers tapped at her keyboard and touch screens, selecting targets and dedicating a single missile to each in case she was ordered to engage. The new CUDA had seen limited use over Turkey, but Bunny had read reports showing that at intermediate range it had a less than 75% kill ratio against the Su-57. Her plan was to disrupt the Russian reserves approaching from the west, and that meant distracting as many of the Russian pilots as she could in the first wave of her attack, hoping for a kill or two, and maybe the others would bug out.
    First wave? If she was forced to fire off her full inventory of CUDAs, she didn’t have a second wave.
    *
    *
    Bondarev’s situation had gone from dominance to a knife edge balance in a matter of minutes. His nine Su-57s had been facing off against six older National Guard F-22s but six USAF F-35s were now on the way. Another nine Mig-41s from his 5th Air Regiment had been scrambled, but the approaching Americans would be within missile range first. In fact, they already were. And their missiles could home on the targets given to them by the fighters on his tail.
    It was time to test his adversary’s mettle. He turned his flight west, closing the gap toward his own approaching fighters, moving toward the east coast of Saint Lawrence Island. As expected, the Americans followed. He opened a Guard channel, “American flight leader, you are entering the safety perimeter for Russian rescue operations, agreed with your superiors. You must turn back, or you could be considered hostile.”
    “Hostile is what I call a Russian fighter over US airspace,” came the reply.
    “Nonetheless, we are conducting a high risk rescue operation in the seas off Saint Lawrence and we cannot allow any interference. If you do not respect the rules of engagement agreed by our superiors, you will be fired upon.”
    The American National Guard pilots were either foolish, or suicidal. They must know they were being targeted by Russian passive infrared systems on the aircraft both in front of them and behind them. Not to mention the long range radar on Bondarev’s A-100 AWACS, which was able to burn through their stealth countermeasures using the data from Bondarev’s flight to enhance the weak returns from its own radar. A tense minute went past. Bondarev tightened the webbing of his G-frame over his chest, expecting at any moment to hear the missile launch warning that could be the last thing he ever heard.
    He realized he was holding his breath, and let it out all at once when he saw a flicker on his tactical HUD, span his head around, and saw the glint off the canopies of the American fighters as they peeled away, moving back toward the Alaskan coast.
    “Don’t worry Ivan,” said the voice of the American flight leader, in the clear. “We’re not going far.
    Try coming a bit further east, we’ll be ready to welcome you.”

    [Linked Image]
    *
    *
    “With respect, this is #%&*$#,” Bunny said, watching the icons for the Russian and American fighters diverge. “Russian fighters over US territory and we’re bugging out?”
    “What are our options here?” Rodriguez whispered to Halifax. She was the only other pilot in the room. Theoretically, she could help fly the drones in an emergency, but he wasn’t certified on these platforms and was from an older generation of pilot: strictly one girl, one machine. What Bunny was doing now, she couldn’t dream of matching.
    “You heard,” Halifax said. “We are not to engage.”
    The Russian B flight had moved into a racetrack orbit over Gambell township on the east of the island, just behind the main Russian fighter force. “I could blow their B-team out of the sky right now, ma’am,” Bunny said. “I have a wedge of Fantoms right underneath them.” Rodriguez saw the icons for the second flight of Russian fighters sweep over the top of Bunny’s Fantoms without even realizing they were there.
    “I think the Russians might react poorly to that Lieutenant,” Rodriguez said. “If our President did spit-swear a deal with theirs.” A thought occurred to her. “But make a run over Gambell will you? I’d like to know why the Russians have parked a flight of Sukhois right on top of a small Yupik fishing village.”
    “Yes ma’am,” Bunny said happily. “I’ll throw the feed up here.” Without taking her eyes off her VR visor, she pointed up to the two 2D screens showing the feed from the drones screaming toward Gambell. They showed two different views of the town, as Bunny had programmed two of the Fantoms to come in from the south, at wave top level, while the others approached from the north and would be popping up to 5,000 feet to get a good look at the village and surrounds. She gave them a rendezvous south of the Island, over the Bering Strait and out of harm’s way.
    Rodriguez didn’t know where to look. One once 2D tactical screen the HUDs of the Fantoms were still showing the target boxes for the two Russian air groups, one in the east, one in the west. On the screen Bunny had just pointed at, the screen was split into four, showing the nose camera feed from the four drones approaching Gambell. They showed various versions of a rushing water with a smudge of land on the horizon. Suddenly the ground vanished and then there was nothing but grey sky as the Fantoms popped up at the start of their recon run.
    “F1 and F2 coming up on Gambell,” Bunny said, and Rodriguez glued her eyes to the screen showing the feed from the recon drones as the land slowly came into focus and the small village grew larger as they rapidly closed. Suddenly one of the four squares flashed with static and went black.
    “Damn,” Bunny said. She started tapping her keys, but the screen stayed black. She jabbed her touchscreen and dragged a finger across it. “Breaking off!”
    “What?” Rodriguez asked. “Did we lose the feed?”
    “No,” Bunny replied, her voice ice cold and angry. “We just lost a Fantom.”
    *
    *
    Perri Tungyan shivered uncontrollably. He needed to get warm, but that would have to wait. He was watching an invasion unfold right in front of him. He’d scurried up the hill to the old gas station and kicked in the door. It wasn’t locked, just stuck. He’d been up there with other kids a few years back, looking for anything that could be salvaged and sold, but the place had been stripped clean. There was a shop and cashier area with windows looking out and down on the town, and Perri crouched behind the cashier desk with his wet blanket around him, his body heat warming the seal fur just enough to stop him going into shock.
    The clutter of buildings that was the village of Gambell hid from view what was happening down there, but he could clearly see the military transports and soldiers unloading crates and vehicles from them. As each was emptied, it would take off and head West, and a new helicopter would fly in and take its place.
    He almost missed the Verba ground to air missile leap into the air and zoom toward the horizon.
    From the corner of his eye, at the far end of the runway across the bay, he picked up a flash and then a blossom of white smoke. A finger of light, almost like a laser, flashed across the sky and disappeared in a second, leaving a trail of wispy vapor in the air behind it, showing where the missile was headed. Looking at where it had come from, Perri saw soldiers standing around some a tripod by a small trailer, struggling to lift another missile out of a crate and fit it to the rails of a launcher mounted on the tripod and connected to a small antenna.
    Suddenly he saw them look up, and then punch their fists in the air. They began clapping each other’s shoulders until one who must have been their officer slapped one across the head and they bent to the task of reloading their missile launcher again. Whatever they had shot at, they must have hit it.
    “S***’s getting real now,” Perri heard a voice say behind him, and he spun around.
    *
    *
    “ANR my systems are reporting the destruction of one of my drones by possible enemy fire over Gambell,” Bunny said. “Can you parse the data and check for Russian ground to air missile radar signatures?”
    “Roger NCTAMS, parsing,” came the reply. “Pull back to your former waypoint.”
    Alicia Rodriguez had her eyes glued to the video feed from the remaining Fantoms. They had dropped back down to wavetop level and were pulling out to sea south of the Island.
    “Acknowledged, ANR, completing egress,” Bunny said. “I’ve got enemy flight B moving down through 20,000. They’re wide awake now, it must have been a missile strike.” Her threat display was not showing either ground or air radar with a lock on her remaining three drones but that couldn’t last, with a flight of what looked like at least nine Su-57s headed her way.
    “Got your feed NCTAMS, copy your analysis,” the air controlled said. “We are showing a ground to air missile launch at the time you lost contact with your bird. Break off one bird and give us a high speed pass over Gambell please, we want to get a sniff of the ordnance Ivan has on the ground there. We’ll have a satellite in place in 20 minutes, but for now, you are the only eyes over that island.”
    “Roger ANR, do we have any assets in the OA capable of jamming Russian anti-air systems?” Bunny asked.
    “Negative NCTAMS,” the controller said. “You have the only EW capable platform in the operations area.”
    “Request permission to suppress enemy air defenses if identified,” Bunny asked. “I have already lost one bird.”
    “Negative NCTAMS, you are not to open fire on Russian ground or air units, understood?”
    “Understood ANR. NCTAMS out,” Bunny said through gritted teeth.
    An alarm sounded as one of her Fantoms parked south of the Island reported a radar sweep by one of the Russian fighters bearing down on her. Rodriguez expected Bunny to react, but she ignored it, staying focused on the one drone that was fast approaching Gambell.
    “Your Fantoms are being hunted by the Russian fighters,” Halifax said.
    “Yes sir,” Bunny said. “But all they’re seeing are ghosts right now. If they had a fix, you’d see them light me up for real. And as soon as they light up their fire control radars, I’ll have a solid CUDA lock.
    See if we can bluff them into breaking off.”
    “Don’t push it Lieutenant. It’s too soon in this little catfight for us to be throwing hardware away,” Rodriguez cautioned.
    “Yes ma’am,” Bunny said, pushing her master throttle forward. “Fantom 1 going mach 1.5. Feet dry in five!” she murmured, then a few seconds later, “I have eyes on the target. Jamming.” The Fantom had limited radar jamming capability and it wouldn’t help at all against optical or IR guided missiles.
    Six eyes glued themselves to the video feed as the Fantom popped up, swept in over Gambell airstrip and banked hard, curving over the village itself.
    “Missile launch!” Bunny called. Her combat AI deployed flares and chaff then threw the Fantom into a wrenching 180 degree turn sending it out over the sea again. After a couple of seconds it was clear the missile would miss, and Rodriguez caught her breath again. Bunny spooled the recon data backwards on a screen.
    “NCTAMS to ANR, I am showing multiple aircraft on the ground, A.I. is calling them rotary winged heavy transports. From the vision, I’m going to guess Mi-26s.” She replayed the video from the overflight, “At least five, with two more inbound, one moving west, about ten miles out. I have ground target heat signatures, probably motor vehicles, mostly stationary … and … bingo. I got an optical and ELINT lock on a Russian Verba ground to air mobile missile unit. Probably networked given the range at which the swine brought down one of my Fantoms. You got enough ANR or do you want another pass? I’m showing those Sukhois moving in for a closer look.”
    There was a moment of static before the controller came back, “Reviewing now… NCTAMS we need another pass, further east. Sending you coordinates.”
    “Damn,” Bunny said to herself. “One dead Fantom not enough?” Her console chimed as another short-range air search radar swept across her machine. With every passing minute headed north out to sea she was increasing the separation between the patrolling Russians and her recon bird, but they were decreasing the separation to her two drones orbiting uselessly in the south.
    “Coming around. Lighting burner. Four minutes to objective,” Bunny announced, her eyes flicking from screen to screen as she monitored both the threats to her two parked fighters and the ingress of the recon drone.
    “Air or ground radar will pick you up at that airspeed.” Rodriguez pointed out.
    “And that Verba will swat me if I go in subsonic ma’am,” Bunny replied.
    Rodriguez had to leave the mission execution to her pilot, but she couldn’t help pointing out the obvious. The Russian fighters had begun moving with intent toward the two orbiting Fantoms.
    Rodriguez looked over at Halifax and caught his eye.
    “If those Russian fighters engage Lieutenant, you are to evade and withdraw,” Halifax said.
    “Yes sir,” O’Hare replied. Rodriguez couldn’t help note the pilot was biting her lip now.

    [Linked Image]
    *
    *
    “Jeez, you scared me man,” Perri said, turning to see 15 year old Dave Iworrigan looking at him with wide eyes from under a mop of unwashed black hair, his little fat cheeks red with either cold, or excitement. “What are you doing up here?”
    The other boy looked embarrassed, and shrugged, “I sleep up here sometimes,” he said, pointing into the store room out back. “For the peace and quiet, you know?” Perri knew. Dave came from a big family, who were legendary in Gambell for their all-out brawls. Dave’s brothers were as peaceful as lambs toward strangers, but brutal toward each other. As the youngest, Dave had apparently decided flight was a better survival strategy than fight. He looked out the broken windows of the gas station again. “Sound of the choppers woke me up, I saw you run for it and then total your ATV.”
    Perri looked past him into the dark storeroom, “You got a sleeping bag back there?”
    “Not there, someone would find it,” the boy said. “I’ve got it stashed.”
    “I’m freezing here Dave,” Perri said impatiently.
    Dave looked at him as though deciding whether to let Perri in on his secret, and the sighed, “OK, follow me.”
    They went outside, to a hatch in the dirt. It had an old padlock on it and Dave pulled out a key and undid the lock, putting it in his pocket.
    “Welcome to my crib,” he smiled, pulling up the hatch.
    Perri saw a ladder going down a narrow shaft and a weak light below, and looked at Dave doubtfully.
    It smelled.
    “Go on, it’s bigger at the bottom,” he said.
    It wasn’t like he had much choice. He’d die of hypothermia if he didn’t get warm, and soon. He went down the ladder, his eyes adjusting to the weak light, and at the bottom found himself inside what must have been an old gasoline tank. It was about the size of small fishing hut, and Dave had moved in a mattress, some small boxes for furniture and storage, a folding chair and some bedding. Perri sniffed; it stunk of teenage boy, but not the gasoline smell Perri expected. The light was coming from a construction light hooked up to a car battery, sitting beside some solar cells and a cable which Dave obviously used to keep it charged. A 20 gallon plastic bladder of water sat beside them.
    “I figure it’s like twenty years since there was gasoline in here,” Dave said. “Don’t worry. I dropped a burning rag in here just in case there was fumes or something, but it didn’t even get a flash. It’s just a bit rusty is all.”
    Perri walked over and grabbed the sleeping bag on top of the mattress.
    “Oh man, you’ll get it wet,” Dave said, but he helped Perri unzip it, took his wet sealskin blanket and wrapped the bag around him. He sat Perri down in the chair.
    “What else you got in the boxes there?” Perri asked when he finally stopped shaking.
    “Got a gas stove, some packet soups, instant oats, that kind of thing,” the other boy said. “I was about to make some breakfast when you rolled in.”
    “Got your phone?”
    “Yeah, but…”
    “Got a gun?” Perri asked.
    “Of course I’ve got a gun,” Dave answered, pointing at a long fish packing case, like it was the dumbest question in the world.
    “Ammo?”
    “Yeah. Couple boxes I guess.”
    “What caliber?”
    “Got some 300 for this rifle, some 30 oh six for my other rifle. Why?”
    Perri pulled the sleeping bag tighter around himself, and then heard the unmistakable sound of a sonic boom, coming from the direction of the village. He pointed up toward the rolling thunder. “Because I think we’re at war, is why.”
    *
    *

    [Linked Image]

    “Air to air missile launch!” Bunny said as her Fantom swung around to start its second approach and was immediately picked up on radar by the approaching Su-57 flight. “Jamming active. Countermeasures deploying.” She was talking to herself as much as to the people in the room with her. She turned her helmet to look at data on a virtual screen on her right, then back to the HUD for the Fantom. “K-77Ms. Four. We’re dead.”
    She pointed up at the missile tracks, spearing in from the Russian fighter icons, spread in a fan with Bunny’s Fantom at its point. “Question is only whether we can uplink the recon data before they splash us.”
    The K-77M was a new short range phased-array, all-aspect missile that used both infrared, optical and radar guidance to home on its target. Rodriguez knew the best way, maybe the only way to survive a volley of K-77Ms at this range was to kill the fighters shooting them before they could even fire. And it was too late for that.
    With nothing to lose, O’Hare pushed the Fantom higher to get the best possible imagery. They all watched the video feed intently as the town sped toward them, seeing choppers lifting off, men scurrying about and light transport vehicles lined up along the side of the runway like the Russians were holding a Gaz Tigr-M fire-sale.
    Hammering through Mach 1.6 the Fantom flew over the top of the town just as the tracks of the incoming K-77M missiles on the tactical screen crossed its flight path. The video feed went dead. “NCTAMS to ANR, we are out of the fight,” Bunny told her NORAD controller. “Tell me you got that feed.”
    “NCTAMS-A4, I confirm recon data package received. You are clear to RTB with your remaining birds. Nice job NCTAMS, ANR out.”
    Rodriguez started as Bunny punched the desk next to her joystick, “ANR, those damn Russians just shot down two of my Fantoms. I have mapped a Verba missile crew in at least one position on that isthmus and the ELINT signature is telling me it is networked, not just some guy with a missile launcher on his shoulder. My two remaining birds are carrying both CUDAs and AGM-158C LRASMs. I am in a position to engage both Russian air and ground defenses. In accordance with SROE I request permission to engage hostile enemy air defenses.”
    There was a tense moment of silence. Halifax stepped forward and put his hand on Bunny’s shoulder, just as the radio crackled to life again. “Negative NCTAMS, you are not to engage. You will RTB and await further tasking.”
    O’Hare pushed her keyboard away from her. “Roger ANR, NCTAMS out.” Then she lifted Halifax’s hand off her shoulder without taking her eyes from the vision and data from her three drones, “Permission to indulge in profanity Sir?” she asked.
    “Patience O’Hare,” Halifax said. “Russians keep this up, payback will come.”
    “Not soon enough Sir,” Bunny replied. The only good news was that the Sukhoi flight had been drawn to the recon drone, allowing the other two drones to escape without detection. Even as she checked on the status of her returning Fantoms and keyed in the dogleg return journey, Bunny was rewinding the vision her machines took over both Savoonga and Gambell and getting her AI to quantify the visual and signals intelligence it had gathered.
    For the first time in an hour, she pushed back from her desk, blew her hair out of her eyes, pulled off her helmet and took a long pull on the warm soda that had been sitting at her elbow since the EMALS catapult had fired her first drone through the chute.
    She looked at the data from her overflights as it flowed across multiple screens. “So tell me, sirs and ma’ams,” she asked, staring up at the numbers. “If you were reacting to a maritime emergency in foreign waters, even one involving a nuclear sub, is it likely you would be able to pull together at almost no notice, at least 23 Mi-26 choppers, an A-100 AWACS, a squadron or two of front line Su-57s armed with the nastiest air to air missiles in the Russian arsenal, and at least two battalions of special forces troops supported by fully networked Verba ground to air missile systems?” She spun her chair around and looked at them both, “Because personally, I don’t think it’s very likely at all. I think it’s more likely Russia has just invaded the US of A.”
    *
    *


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    #4402437 - 01/29/18 05:43 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 26 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    Originally Posted by HeinKill
    Originally Posted by Ssnake
    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.

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  • 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. wink

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  • 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. wink
    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.

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  • 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. wink
    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.

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    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.

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    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!"

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    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. smile

    #4402504 - 01/29/18 10:41 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    I say just keep the story as it is, it’s really going well, and use ssnake to proocheck your next seehearspeak

    #4402579 - 01/30/18 02:37 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    Awesome stuff.


    Give all their reporters basic IQ and College Aptitude tests, fire them if they flunk. Then, Defund NPR!
    It's a publicly funded leftist garbage dispenser

    Let them eat cheap Ice Cream! I'm off to get my hair done.
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    #4402648 - 01/30/18 07:05 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: Ssnake]  
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    Originally Posted by rollnloop.
    I say just keep the story as it is, it’s really going well, and use ssnake to proocheck your next seehearspeak

    Originally Posted by Nixer
    Awesome stuff.

    Originally Posted by Ssnake
    Like you said, critical questions are (hopefully) useful to make the story even better.


    Thanks for engaging all! Will keep pounding away on the keyboard ... am keeping the flow a few chapters ahead of what I’m posting, going back to proofread and then putting a chapter online so progress is solid. I’m thinking it will bottom out around 150K - 180K words but then I’ll be asking you what I can cut because I am a great believer in Elmore Leonard’s maxim ‘cut the parts people won’t want to read’! The good news Ssnake is that a lot of your very good observations are already covered in the plot as I have written it but I won’t say more because, spoilers!


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    #4402669 - 01/30/18 09:56 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    Also, low latency UCAVs have another issue. If you want to control them directly, even if you offload a lot to an on-board AI, the UCAV needs to transmit a video and data stream constantly. Even if you encrypt the data stream, you still need a lot of bandwidth (360° high-res/low latency video), that is a critical vulnerability. If you need to operate under EM control, you're flying blind and can't override. Once that you start emitting you can be triangulated and tracked. I'd also expect that some latency in the video feed/control input loop is unavoidable which probably puts a limit to the kind of maneuvers that you can safely execute during low level flights. Sooner or later you're going to collide with something that the AI can't properly recognized as an obstacle where a human pilot on location might just have those .2 seconds reaction time advantage (even if he can't pull as many Gs). And then there's just brute force jamming. The Russians may not yet have the proper equipment in place (although a lot of jamming has already been mentioned), but once that it's clear that they are dealing with directly controlled UCAVs, that's what I would try next. A combination of jamming, EM homing missiles, and dogfights in complicated and dynamic environments where reaction speed is king may turn out to be the counter tactic. The question is, can the Russians get it to work before their invasion force is doomed?

    #4402671 - 01/30/18 10:39 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: Ssnake]  
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    Originally Posted by Ssnake
    The question is, can the Russians get it to work before their invasion force is doomed?


    That is, indeed, a very central question wink


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    #4402686 - 01/30/18 11:30 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    Speaking of emitting..

    Doesn't this mean that the "hidden" UCAV base just became not so hidden? They are emitting something to control the drones, right?

    Oh and more please biggrin


    Give all their reporters basic IQ and College Aptitude tests, fire them if they flunk. Then, Defund NPR!
    It's a publicly funded leftist garbage dispenser

    Let them eat cheap Ice Cream! I'm off to get my hair done.
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    #4402694 - 01/31/18 12:58 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    They would, but they could get away with much less bandwidth if the UCAV's control is largely automated. It's the video feed that is the killer. In the proposed configuration (VR headset) you must provide 360° footage (with a camera rotating with the pilot's head movement the latencies become too large), and all that in high resolution, and you can't use a high bandwidth laser beam to a satellite (latencies, again, and dependency on the satellite network). Sending an analog signal would be bandwidth/energy consumption prohibitive. Digitizing the video stream invokes latencies - the more, the stronger you compress the video, but compressing it you must.

    #4402699 - 01/31/18 02:02 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    Hmmmmmm

    Balloons....seriously....some type of "cheap" repeater platform. No doubt the loss of it and associated electronics would not be "cheap".

    Like somebody said...there are always alternatives.


    Give all their reporters basic IQ and College Aptitude tests, fire them if they flunk. Then, Defund NPR!
    It's a publicly funded leftist garbage dispenser

    Let them eat cheap Ice Cream! I'm off to get my hair done.
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    #4402702 - 01/31/18 02:24 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    Theoretically you could use existing high resolution imagery data, and whatever the drones sensors detects gets overlaid. Basically synthetic vision, is what the pilot is operating off of in closer to real time, and only in the landing phase do you have true direct video from the drone.

    For recon, yeah definitely going to be an issue.

    -Jenrick

    #4402715 - 01/31/18 08:21 AM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    ...as long as your database is reasonably up to date. But even streaming the raw sensor data would take up a lot of bandwidth. Only when you let it be filtered by what the onboard AI has identified you can reduce the data stream significantly. But then you're inside of the filter bubble that the programmers of the AI created, and we all know that programmers never make mistakes. wink
    Still it might be useful. But that would also mean no real-time raw imagery on recce flights. Maybe it's stored in the drone for post-flight evaluation and you only get to see abstracted tracks for identified objects. But that either means a super-super-super sophisticated image recognition software for the AI, or active radar emission. If you want to make emission control a part of the story, I'd go with ultraviolet, optical & thermal image recognition. That's passive, but will reduce the drones' combat worthiness in bad weather conditions (well, you could still switch on the radar when everybody else has to, too). But whetever target can successfully fake its signature/fool the AI/isn't in the database will either be invisible or "unknown" to the pilot in real-time.

    Last edited by Ssnake; 01/31/18 08:22 AM.
    #4402747 - 01/31/18 02:50 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: Ssnake]  
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    Originally Posted by Ssnake
    ...as long as your database is reasonably up to date. But even streaming the raw sensor data would take up a lot of bandwidth. Only when you let it be filtered by what the onboard AI has identified you can reduce the data stream significantly. But then you're inside of the filter bubble that the programmers of the AI created, and we all know that programmers never make mistakes. wink
    Still it might be useful. But that would also mean no real-time raw imagery on recce flights. Maybe it's stored in the drone for post-flight evaluation and you only get to see abstracted tracks for identified objects. But that either means a super-super-super sophisticated image recognition software for the AI, or active radar emission. If you want to make emission control a part of the story, I'd go with ultraviolet, optical & thermal image recognition. That's passive, but will reduce the drones' combat worthiness in bad weather conditions (well, you could still switch on the radar when everybody else has to, too). But whetever target can successfully fake its signature/fool the AI/isn't in the database will either be invisible or "unknown" to the pilot in real-time.


    Can we assume some sort of data compression / bandwidth ‘Moore’s law’ here without it being Disney tech? The scenario is set in the 2030s.

    Fred


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    #4402752 - 01/31/18 03:31 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 31 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
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    As Bunny was bringing her Fantoms home, Bondarev was finishing his mission debrief. It had been an entirely successful mission. US fighters were patrolling impotently up and down the Alaskan coast, but so far had not dared to test the exclusion zone around Saint Lawrence. The Russian President had persuaded his counterpart they were doing their utmost to contain the situation but needed unfettered access to ground staging facilities on Saint Lawrence and undisturbed freedom of navigation in the sea and air around it.
    Russian troops had rounded up the few hundred residents of Gambell and Savoonga without great drama. They had found fewer than 50 US military personnel at the radar station at Savoonga, only 6 of whom were security personnel. A short firefight had broken out when one of the radar station personnel at Savoonga who had been out hunting reindeer in the hills to the south had returned and decided to engage the encamped Russian troops, but he had been subdued with a non-lethal gunshot injury. The brief firefight had not impacted the operation. In Gambell they had hearded the residents into the school gym. The population of Savoonga, including the military personnel stationed there, was considerably larger, so they were being kept in barracks inside the US military cantonment.
    It couldn’t have gone more smoothly, but Bondarev was not happy, and he was letting Arsharvin know it.
    “I want to know how the Americans managed to get a flight of drones under our long distance radar, through our Verba coverage and fly them right down the bloody runway at Gambell!” His voice was so loud it rattled the windows of the hut and he saw men outside look in, before deciding it was probably better they found somewhere else to be.
    “We shot two of them down Comrade Colonel,” Arsharvin pointed out, carefully. “A Verba unit claimed one, your pilots the other.”
    “My pilots reported possible returns from at least four, and up to six different stealth aircraft operating at low level while we were engaged,” Bondarev continued. “We were just lucky they either weren’t armed or didn’t have orders to put a fistful of missiles up our a**es.” He took a breath, tried to speak more slowly. “I have reports of American UAVs overflying both Savoonga and Gambell. We had a brief window of time on Saint Lawrence to get our troops and aircraft down and out of sight before the Americans got satellites in position to see what was happening, but those drones got it all! There is no value in a no-fly zone that the enemy can penetrate with impunity.”
    “With respect Yevgeny,” Arsharvin complained. “You should be chewing out the air defense commander, not me. If he’d got his Verbas networked quicker…”
    “I have chewed him out,” Bondarev said. “But now I’m looking at my head of operational intelligence, and I’m asking him to tell me how American drones managed to get into position over Saint Lawrence so quickly. The nearest US military airfields are Eielson or Elmendorf-Richardson, 600 bloody miles away! My strategy was based around identifying and protecting us from threats from that quarter and we succeeded. So where did those drones come from?!”
    Arsharvin was struggling. He put his hands behind his neck, looking up at the ceiling. “Nome is the most likely launch point, but we have no reports of military aircraft or personnel being stationed there. We know they have been experimenting with truck mounted launchers. It’s possible they have positioned several of these around Nome, I suppose. Or at the Coast Guard station at Port Clarence? They are both only a hundred and fifty miles away,” he offered.
    Bondarev calmed a little. It did make some sort of sense. Drones, truck mounted or otherwise, could easily be hidden in a hangar at the civilian airport, maybe even launched remotely from highways if they were unarmed. And the Coast Guard base at Port Clarence was a US Navy facility – he probably hadn’t paid it enough attention. “Then check that Port Clarence is on our targeting list for the first ground strike,” he told Arsharvin. “And before we go in, get me some updated imagery. Show me some truck-mounted drones or empty launchers lined up on the side of a runway up in Nome or Saint Clarence and I will relax.”
    *
    *
    If Bondarev was unhappy, Rodriguez was even more so. Bringing their birds home had not been a smooth process this time. One of the Fantoms had lost forward vision as it approached the Rock, meaning Bunny had to bring it in on autopilot. A software kludge had been needed to get it to ignore its collision warning system as it flew itself towards the small entrance to the cave, and they had wasted precious time and fuel while O’Hare and a programmer hammered out the workaround, debugged and uploaded it. But it had made them realize they needed the software update applied to all of their drones, because any one of them could end in the same situation and they had to have a way to tell it that it wasn’t about to wipe itself out on a cliff face. As the Fantom had glided into the opening, Bunny had grabbed manual control as soon as she had a visual, but it was rough. The drone had slapped onto the water hard, bending its ski supports. Rodriguez figured a week, maybe more, for her small maintenance crew to replace the supports and forward video system and get it airworthy again.
    There was not a lot of jubilation under the Rock that night, even though they had delivered on their mission objectives. It had cost them two Fantoms down, one damaged and out of play. Halifax picked up on it as he walked into the ready room that doubled as a duty galley down by the deck. He looked around him, seeing a distinct lack of laughter and teasing, and a whole lot of tired people slumped on their elbows spooning food into their mouths and not really even talking with each other. He walked over to Rodriguez, who was going through an inventory checklist with one of her ordnancemen.
    “CO on the deck!” she announced as he approached, and she snapped to attention.
    “As you were Boss,” he said. “Can we have a word?” She dismissed her aircrewman and looked at him expectantly.
    “Why the glum faces?” he asked.
    “Two dead, one wounded, sir,” she replied simply.
    Halifax blinked. “They’re machines, Rodriguez.”
    “And we know that. But if we have this attrition rate on every combat mission, this base will pretty quickly be out of business. It’s supposed to be a covert center of operations, so we can’t be flying new drones in here every few days or we’ll get found pretty quick. Could bring in the airframes by submarine, put them together here again, but that would be too slow for combat conditions. And we’d need double the personnel.”
    She was right, Halifax knew that, but he had expected to see a little more optimism among his people. They’d lost two drones, yes, but they’d also got vital intelligence and showed what they capable of. He’d told them they needed to launch faster than they had, but O’Hare and Rodriguez’s people had managed to get four drones into the air averaging five minutes between launches, off a single catapult. They needed to shorten the time from a launch order to the first launch, but he couldn’t fault their performance once they got the first cartridge on the EMALS.
    O’Hare. He just realized she wasn’t here and he hadn’t seen her since the mission debrief. “Where is our pilot?” Halifax asked Rodriguez.
    “Probably resting Sir,” Rodriguez replied. “She’s the only jock on the Rock. She knows you could be calling on her again anytime and she has to be mission capable.”
    “I’ve asked CNAF to give us at least three more pilots,” Halifax said. “Some pencil head told me we had to wait for the base to be certified before we could request more personnel. I told him we just certified the base under enemy fire and he’d better put me through to someone who realized the Russians had just invaded US territory.” He bit his lip. “The problem is how to get them in without Ivan noticing.”
    “Can’t you just chopper them in topside as usual? We’re facing off against the Russians a hundred miles south, no one is going to be surprised at some extra traffic on Little Diomede.”
    “That’s exactly the problem. Damn Russian no-fly zone has CNAF rattled, they don’t want to risk a shoot down even if we are fifty miles north of the perimeter. We lose anyone, even in an accident, it could start a shooting war. No ships or subs available either, I tried.” Halifax looked around the room and back to Rodriguez, “For now, your crew here and that hot-headed pilot are it.” He put a hand on her shoulder, “So I need you to get your people off their mopey a**es and ready for war Boss. Clear?”
    “Yes, sir,” Rodriguez said. “You’re right.” She turned to the people scattered around the canteen, and raised her voice. “Listen up! Simulated Fantom hex launch in 10 minutes. One-zero. Get moving!”
    *
    *
    [Linked Image]

    “I’m freezing,” came the whining voice for about the fifth time.
    “Shut up Dave, I’m cold too,” Perri said through clamped teeth.
    “I’m telling you, we should go down there, join the others,” the younger boy continued. “At least they have heat, food.”
    “They’re prisoners Dave, do you want to be a Russian prisoner?” Perri asked. He shifted on his stomach, trying to get comfortable and peered through the scope on his rifle again. The Russian patrol circled the village about every fifteen minutes in its jeep, about a hundred and fifty yards away down the hill. He’d thought about how easy it would be to shoot out one of its tires as it passed in front of them, maybe make it flip - but that trick only worked in movies. He was a good shot, but not Hollywood good.
    It was the third day since he’d escaped from the invading Russians. He and Dave had spent the first night and day up in the abandoned gas station, watching what was going on down on the air strip and in the town. It had been pretty uneventful after they’d seen the Russian anti-aircraft batteries firing off their missiles and then that spy plane had rocketed down the runway from two different directions and got splashed by Russian fighters, missiles slamming into it just as it cleared the town. So they knew the US air force or whoever it was knew what was going on. The Russians had started piling sand bags and icy dirt around their emplacements on the runway, the last choppers had lifted off, and there had been a lot of shouting down in Gambell, but no shooting.
    The next day they saw Russian troops going from house to house in Gambell looking for residents. Anyone they found, they bustled out of their houses or business and into jeeps and drove them all to the school at the eastern edge of town.
    “Just a matter of time before they check up here,” Dave had said. “We are so screwed.”
    “We could hike out to Savoonga,” Perri had said. “I did it with my brothers once, this time of year. It’s OK if the weather holds. Takes about a week along the coast track.”
    “What makes you think Savoonga will be any different?” Dave asked. “You tried calling but it’s like the tower is down. Savoonga is probably full of these guys too.”
    “Yeah, not the town. Air force has that base up there,” Perri pointed out. “Maybe they’re holding out. If we could make it there…”
    That was as far as the conversation got. Right then, they’d seen a jeep heading out of town coming straight for them.
    “In the tank!” Perri had said, pushing Dave out of the gas station office. He looked around him. Coffee mugs! They’d brought a couple of mugs of coffee up with them from Dave’s hideout. He grabbed them by their handles and bustled out behind Dave who flung the hatch open and waited until Perri was on his way down before climbing in himself and locking the hatch from the inside with a lock he’d put there to keep his brothers out in case they came looking for him.
    At the bottom of the ladder they waited and listened. It was only six feet from the tank to the ground above, and the hatch didn’t have an airtight seal anymore. They heard the crunch of tires on gravel and then at least two voices. The voices didn’t sound worried or urgent. In fact, they sounded like they were having an argument.
    “That’s Russian,” Dave whispered and Perri put a hand over his mouth to stop him saying anything else. But he was right. It was easier to pick up Russian radio in Gambell than stations from Alaska, so everyone listened to the Russian pop stations, even if few people spoke more than a few words.
    Then they heard boots and the hatch rattled. There was some discussion, and a huge bang as something was hammered down on the hatch cover, maybe a rifle butt. Perri was glad it was late summer, because the snow on the ground was mostly melted or their footprints would have been clearly visible. After a bit more rattling, it seemed the troops overhead lost interest in the hatch and moved off.
    In another five minutes, they heard the jeep starting up and pulling away.
    Dave put a hand on the ladder to head up again, but Perri grabbed him and pointed to the mattress. “Let’s wait,” he said quietly. “There’s no point going up too soon.”
    While they’d waited, they’d agreed they had to get into town and see what was happening. They’d wait until nightfall, sneak in through the old fish processing plant that bordered the school. So they had. And if Perri had been pi**ed at getting his ATV shot up and chased into the sea, he was doubly pi**ed at what he saw from the windows of the fish plant. Inside the school, they worked out the Russians had gathered the whole town, young and old, and crammed them into the school gym. There were no windows in the gym they could look in, but every two hours they saw groups of people being led out of the gym and through the school to the toilets and then back again. Russian troops patrolled around the outside of the school and were stationed on the doors. In one of the groups he saw being led out was his mother and his sister.
    That was all he needed to see. He’d grabbed Dave by the collar and led him back to the gas station on the outside of town. Down in the tank, he’d started loading his rifle and checking Dave’s ammunition.
    “What are you doing?” Dave had asked him. “There’s hundreds of them. You can’t take on a whole army. We might as well just give ourselves up.”
    “You can give yourself up,” Perri said. “They tried to kill me. I’m going to start killing them.”
    But the more they talked, the more Perri realized he would need help. He’d seen a fantastic movie once, about an army sniper team. You had this idea that snipers were these lone wolves who just headed out onto the battlefield with their gun and a bit of dried meat and hid in a bush until some African warlord came past, and then capped him before melting into the bush. But it wasn’t like that - snipers worked in pairs, with one person acting as a spotter with binoculars and the sniper keeping his sight protected and his rifle ready. You couldn’t see sh*t when you were looking down a scope, so you needed a partner to be your wide angle vision and spot targets for you. The best place for them to set up was on the slopes of Sivuqaq Mountain, looking down on the town from behind. He’d explained this to Dave.
    “Yeah, we could do that,” Dave had said. “Or, we could just stay down here until the US Navy comes steaming into Gambell harbor with one of its big missile destroyers and a few hundred Navy
    Seals and starts killing them for us.”
    “You think America gives a damn about a few hundred dumb Yupik in the Bering Strait?” He pointed west. “They’ll be lining up the tanks and fighters, for sure, but over there in Nome, to protect Alaska. I got news for you - the cavalry isn’t coming Dave.”
    “OK, but what’s the plan here?” the boy asked. “You kill one of them, ten come after us. Maybe they don’t catch us, we kill another one. A hundred come after us. Maybe they get mad, start executing the people in the school. None of this gets our families out of that school.”
    Perri knew that, but he was too angry to care. “It’s called asymmetrical warfare man. A smaller force can keep a bigger force unbalanced, distract them, tie up their troops so they can’t do whatever they came here to do.”
    “You read that in one of your Army recruiting books?” Dave asked. “We aren’t a ‘smaller force’, Perri. We’re just two kids hiding in a hole in the ground.”
    “You aren’t a kid anymore Dave,” Perri said, gesturing around him. “Look at this place. You already moved out of home, you just didn’t tell anyone yet.”
    The young boy had seemed to straighten his back when Perri said that. After a bit more talk, he’d agreed to help, but they’d agreed just killing Russian troops was pointless and just as likely to force the Russians to start killing their hostages in retaliation. So they’d spent their second night creeping through the town, raiding people’s larders and dragging bags of canned food back to the gas station and stashing it in the tank. There had been a couple of near misses and the most dangerous was about three a.m. when they’d broken into the rear of the general store. They wanted more ammunition, camping gear, water bladders for storing drinking and cooking water, stuff like that. There were guns there too, but they were locked up. So Dave and Perri were in there filling big shopping bags with whatever looked useful when there were flashlights and voices outside. Dave ducked down behind the store counter, but Perri was stuck right near the window, reaching for a rainproof jacket on a dummy. Anyone looking in would have seen him. He’d frozen behind the dummy as two soldiers walked past, swinging flashlights from side to side. But they weren’t really searching for anything. They walked past the window without a glance and in a few seconds were gone. It freaked Dave and Perri so much though they decided they’d pushed their luck far enough for the night and humped their loot back to the tank.
    Perri had no idea what had happened to his father and brother. They’d been out at sea when the Russians arrived. He had to assume they’d come back to harbor to find themselves hostages like everyone else, but he hadn’t seen them being walked to the toilets while he and Dave were watching, so he couldn’t be sure.
    Now it was the third day, and Dave and Perri had crept out of the gas station and climbed up the slope that led up to the big rise that was Sivuqaq Mountain. Only 600 feet high, it was more like a bluff than a mountain. It had been a pain in the a** getting to a position where they could look down over the town, within range of Perri’s rifle, but not down amongst the nests of the Crested Auklets which infested the slopes of the bluff this time of year. Their alarmed chattering would have given the two boys away in moments, so they’d stayed above the nests and then moved downslope when they saw a clear space without too many of the little red-beaked birds sitting on their eggs.
    They’d found a perfect spot between and behind some rocks, looking straight over the school, down the road that went through town and out to the airstrip. Their plan was just to try to identify some static targets on this trip, and maybe pick a few good hides they could shoot from.
    “Stop moaning and tell me what you see,” Perri said, looking through his scope. They had a small grey tarpaulin pulled over them, the same color as the gritty dirt and sand around them.
    “Nothing interesting,” Dave said. “Few soldiers standing around outside the town hall. Wait...I see a bunch of guys pulling nets over some boxes, and there’s two jeeps there.”
    “Where?” Perri moved his scope around, but couldn’t see anything in the small circle of glass, and could see even less with his bare eyes.
    “To the left, this side of the school.”
    “I told you man, you have to use the clock,” Perri said patiently. “Straight ahead is 12. Left is 11, 10, 9, right is 1, 2, 3, OK? And tell me high, or low.”
    “Ok ok. Say 10 o’clock. And it’s all low from here,” Dave said.
    Perri moved his sight and picked up movement. His .300 Winchester had a long barrel which he had resting on a rock to keep it steady. He had grabbed a new scope in the general store, one he’d had his eyes on ever since it came in, but would never have been able to afford. It was by a company called Precision Scopes, and overlaid on the glass viewer was a small ‘heads up’ display showing Perri the range to the target once he had it framed, the direction and strength of the wind, and a bunch of other stuff Perri wasn’t sure about, like ‘incline’ and ‘cant’. What Perri was sure about was how it worked. You put a red pip on your target and with your thumb, pressed a button you mounted down back of the trigger of your rifle. Then the sight calculated a firing solution and a crosshair appeared, showing where your bullet would go if you fired it. You put the crosshair over your target and … boom.

    [Linked Image]

    That was the theory anyway. Perri couldn’t risk test firing to zero the sight, which he’d normally want to do. He’d just entered the make of the rifle and the ammo into the scope’s settings and had to hope it would do. He knew his rifle though, and he knew it shot pretty true.
    Now he saw what Dave had been talking about. At the edge of town, under an old carport, Russian troops were piling up cases. They were wooden, and looked about the size as a slab of soda cans. The writing on the outside was Cyrillic, and Perri couldn’t read it so he had no idea what might be in them. Beside those though there were some bigger crates already stacked up three deep and he had no trouble guessing what was in them. The top one on the left most stack was open, and showed what looked like missiles. While a couple of the soldiers were piling up the ammunition, another group of about four were building walls of sandbags up around the carport. At the rate they were going, Perri figured it would take maybe another day, and they would have created a nice little ammo bunker well away from any other building.
    “You seeing what I see?” Dave said, looking through his binos.
    “Missiles,” Perri replied. “Maybe the ones we saw them firing on that first day? So the other stuff is probably ammo for guns, maybe grenades, wire guided rockets, that kind of thing.”
    “No, I mean, they’re piling all those sandbags around it. You’re never going to get a shot, once they’re done.”
    Their plan, for what it was worth, was not to try to kill Russians, not directly anyway. They wanted to find fat, soft targets and take them out, making life on the island a real pain for the invaders. So far, they’d identified a few good ones: an electricity generator, the electricity junction that connected the town to the big pumped hydro plant, not to mention the pump itself up on the bluff above them, and a vehicle park full of jeeps and small trucks. There was also a choice target in the hydrogen fuel tanks down by the harborside catalytic processor, but Perri figured he would need more than his little .300 Winchester to set them off and he knew if he did, the town would really suffer with winter approaching.
    Anyway, he wasn’t looking to blow stuff up. A bullet in the engine block of a generator or the radiator of a jeep would do the job nicely. If they could find one of those missile launch sites, he was pretty sure they would be connected to radar antennas or computers. A few .300 magnum rounds into one of those would probably mess it right up.
    But an ammo dump? Maybe he should be thinking about blowing stuff up. He watched the men below at work for a few minutes more.
    “Would they cover the roof in sandbags too?” Perri said, thinking out loud.
    “Sure,” Dave replied. “What’s the point of protecting the sides if you don’t protect the top? You could drop a bomb right through the roof.”
    “I don’t think the sandbags are meant to stop a bomb,” Perri said. “I think the sandbags are just in case there is an accident. So the whole town doesn’t go up if some dumb ass throws a cigarette on top of a crate of explosives.”
    “Oh yeah. Then probably you don’t want to sandbag the roof. You got to have somewhere for the explosion to go, so you probably want it to go up, not out the sides.”
    “Exactly what I’m thinking man,” Perri said. “And we can get a nice angle on the roof of that carport if we move back up about fifty yards, wouldn’t you say?”
    Dave looked behind them to where the bluff rose up dramatically, “For sure.”
    Perri rolled onto his back, looking up at the young boy sitting beside him, “That’s enough for today,” he said. “I want to get back to the tank and check that ammo we took from the general store. I’m hoping there’s some steel tips there to get me through the aluminum roof of that carport. And I have to clean the barrel.”
    “When are we coming back?” Dave asked.
    “Tonight,” Perri said. “While most of the bad guys are asleep.”
    “I knew you’d say that,” Dave said glumly.
    *
    *
    (C) 2018 Fred ‘Heinkill’ Williams. To be continued...


    [Linked Image]
    #4402760 - 01/31/18 04:55 PM Re: AAR with a difference: Bering Strait UCAV campaign: Updated 29 Jan [Re: HeinKill]  
    Joined: Dec 1999
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    Ssnake Offline
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    Joined: Dec 1999
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    Germoney
    Originally Posted by HeinKill
    Originally Posted by Ssnake
    ...as long as your database is reasonably up to date. But even streaming the raw sensor data would take up a lot of bandwidth. Only when you let it be filtered by what the onboard AI has identified you can reduce the data stream significantly. But then you're inside of the filter bubble that the programmers of the AI created, and we all know that programmers never make mistakes. wink
    Still it might be useful. But that would also mean no real-time raw imagery on recce flights. Maybe it's stored in the drone for post-flight evaluation and you only get to see abstracted tracks for identified objects. But that either means a super-super-super sophisticated image recognition software for the AI, or active radar emission. If you want to make emission control a part of the story, I'd go with ultraviolet, optical & thermal image recognition. That's passive, but will reduce the drones' combat worthiness in bad weather conditions (well, you could still switch on the radar when everybody else has to, too). But whetever target can successfully fake its signature/fool the AI/isn't in the database will either be invisible or "unknown" to the pilot in real-time.


    Can we assume some sort of data compression / bandwidth ‘Moore’s law’ here without it being Disney tech? The scenario is set in the 2030s.


    Your call. I'm just talking about what we know today about it.
    a. There are mathematical laws behind data compression that simply force a disproportionate growth of computing power the more you want to compress. With more computing demand comes more latency (and energy consumption), and, if you want to save on bandwidth, loss of information (IOW, at some point the high res imagery becomes pointless if compression and compression artifacts reduce the actual resolution of the image to a point where old PAL/NTSC resolution largely delivers the same quality. Also, certain mathematical principles about information entropy prevent going beyond certain compression levels even if you ignore the diminishing returns.

    b. my optimistic assumption would be that with some magical new compression technique you can stream a digital 8K video with today's BluRay bandwidth requirements, which are at least 6MBit/sec (most likely it'll actually be 12...15MBit/s). So, that's your bandwidth requirement. If you would transmit only identified tracks filtered by the AI you might get away with just a few KByte/s - which is still a lot for ELINT guys (but two or three orders of magnitude less so); the problematic part is the continuous transmission mode. Even if you scramble the transmission over many frequencies, or use a wide band spread spectrum transmission with reduced intensity (but the weaker the signal, the easier it is to jam) you'd still tell anyone listening on the right frequencies where you are and what your flight vector is (Doppler shift).


    To be honest, I am highly skeptical about the viability of UCAVs for these specific reasons. Piloted jets fly autonomous (they have a human brain or two for data processing), therefore they can fly largely without emitting anything - which is why (active) radar is neded to find them in the first place, which you can then counter either by electronic warfare and/or terrain masking. UCAVs would also have to fly largely autonomous under emission control conditions, which makes the whole thing much more difficult if the robot isn't just to keep the thing in the air and follow a previously planned flight pattern but rather act in contested airspace, possibly even autonomously dodging missiles while relying on passive image analysis. We're talking about a near-sentient dogfight AI, at which point the question arises why you'd still need a human pilot, even if he controls an entire swarm.

    Yes, we already have robotic airplanes since about 10, 15 years now (Predator, GlobalHawk,...), so the concept is viable --- under conditions of air dominance, and if you limit the video feed to standard TV resolutions, unencrypted, via satellite link (which comes with significant latencies of course). That's okay if you're fighting with cave men. As soon as you're in contested air space with a competent enemy, current drones are hopelessly outclassed by classic air defense and fighter jets. So I agree, to make UCAVs viable you need low latency control, which allows you to fly more aggressive maneuvers and pull more Gs. But that comes at the cost of constant radio emission, so the obvious question is "why don't we just go after the control node rather than the drone?"
    Fully autonomous flying kill bots may be viable by 2030 (I hope not), but from a storytelling point of view they are either boring, or must be the villain side (by definition you can't empathize with robots).


    In short, I have no way out for you. We need to gloss it over/bank on the reader's willing suspension of disbelief. smile

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