MEGA After Action November 17, 2000
AFTER ACTION REPORT - 7th Fleet Campaign Game
By Warren Peterson and Joe Sshaffer
The Third world War in the Western Pacific was declared an American victory after five days (a marginal victory by the point tally. We made several mistakes during the game. One mistake was the deployment of our aircraft on CAP. In the game, the CAP has a four hex (approx. 280 mile) range. We learned the hard way that leaving gaps in coverage or ships at the edge of your coverage can be fatal.
The Soviets fought with all that could be mustered but ultimately the quality of American air power, the carrier battle groups, and the Los Angeles-class attack subs were too much. At the end of the game, we were closing in on the Russian player's coastline along the Sea of Japan with four carriers and land-based aircraft in support for what would have been a severe bombing of Russian airbases. Given time I think we would have limited him to only Sea of Okhotsk and Vietnam areas of operations.
A recap of the battle from the Allied perspective is as follows. I will try not to revisit (too much) the items discussed in Terry's Game Log write-up. The reader should be aware that Chinese and Formosan forces where not used in the campaign, although they were available and would of no doubt have effected the outcome of play.
Battle started with a Russian attack on an airbase located in the middle of Japan, beginning with a cruise missile strike in the morning. This neutralized the CAP there and a follow-on attack by Tu-16 bombers in the afternoon put the base out of action permanently. The loss of the base created a hole in the CAP over Japan. Without this cover, the Russian bombers were able to overfly Japan and attack our ships in the Western Pacific (Japan, Hokkaido and North Pacific Zones). In this fashion, several Task Groups (TGs) were attacked and convoys damaged or sunk. Not a good start.
Allied objectives were to get the Wasp's amphibious assault battle group with its Marines from Okinawa to South Korea and get a variety of other supply, tanker and munitions ships to ports in South Korea or Japan. These ships were scattered around the central and south Pacific. Some were organized in groups escorted by frigates, some were not.
One of the initial decisions made that affected the fate of some ships (in their sinking, that is) was the decision to link up the CVN Vinson Task Force with the Wasp TF. The Vinson TF began the game just north of the Phillipines and it moved at full speed to rendezvous with the Wasp group off Okinawa. The rationale was that the Wasp had little fighter CAP (a single Harrier unit) with which to defend itself, so a concerted effort by the Russian player would result in her sinking (and the critical supply ships in her TF) before reaching port. The Vinson on the hand was a real tough nut with its Air Group and its escorting cruisers and destroyers. This decision ultimately resulted in the safe escort of the Wasp TF to port, but left the other ships making the Philippine Islands to Japan run mostly unprotected from Russian bomber attacks staged from Vietnam. Losses included a tanker and an entire convoy of cargo ships from Guam carrying pre-positioned materiel for U.S. ground forces arriving from the U.S.
At dawn on the second day of the war the Allies received much needed reinforcements including the CV Kittyhawk TF and CV Midway TF. Terry's roll of a "10" on the reinforcement track did wonders! In addition, the Russian player did not receive any reinforcements on this day turn or the next. Oh Yeah! Much needed aircraft reinforcements and activation of a Japanese air base also put an end to the Russian overflights. There was still a one hex gap (i.e. about 70 miles wide) in the CAP umbrella, but the tables started to turn when repeated cruise missile attacks on Russian airbases located along the Sea of Japan resulted in two bases being destroyed. This eliminated Soviet offensive air operations in the central region and limited the Russians to bases in the Sea of Okhostk and Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. Got to love those cruise missiles! Problem was there was not enough of them.
An intense and sustained submarine battle commenced on the second day as the American TFs made their way towards Japanese ports and the coast of Hokkaido. Russian submarines, both SSN and SS repeatedly attacked with two missile boats emptying their supply of missiles and torpedoes into a convoy group and a Japanese DD ASW group. Both groups were effectively destroyed, but retribution was swift. By the end of the fourth day both Soviet missiles subs were sunk along with nearly every supporting submarine sent to aid them. Off the southern tip of Japan, a Soviet diesel-electric boat actually got a torpedo into the Wasp before being destroyed. The Wasp was able to limp into port however since the Soviets had nothing left to attack with. Our main advantage in the submarine battle was the American and Japanese P3 ASW aircraft. These were superb in destroying the Russian submarines and had considerable range. The ability of the Allies to control the strategic airspace over Japan and the outstanding ASW power of their submarines and aircraft rendered meaningless the Soviet's numerical superiority in submarine forces.
The Russians also made a bid to demonstrate their status as a naval power. They failed horribly. In an effort to keep airbases in Vietnam supplied and operational, a Task Force centered on the CV Minsk sortied with the intention of forcing its way through the straits at Tsushima. Like the Imperial Russian Navy at the beginning of the 20th century the result was decisive as the TF was set upon by every submarine, patrol boat and aircraft that could be mustered from both Japan and Korea. Airstrikes from the approaching Vinson group provided the coup de grace. The Minsk never returned home, nor did any of its escorts. A single surviving convoy ship scurried into a North Korean port to wait out the war there. In the north, the CV Novisribrusk and its group moved out of the Kuriles in an attempt to join the evolving battle off Hokkaido. A pair of Los Angeles boats damaged the carrier and forced the task force back into Soviet waters. This engagement did result in the loss of the only Los Angeles boat in the conflict when the New York City was destroyed by Soviet DD escorts. Overall, these two disasters demonstrated to the Soviets that any attempt to project surface forces beyond their coast was futile.
The fourth day started out terribly. The Allies received no reinforcements while the Russians loaded up on forces that had been delayed for the previous two days. Luckily, we did receive some much needed aircraft replenishment/repair points which allowed us to improve some of our weakened air units.
One of the more frustrating actions on this day was our attempt to bounce the CAP of the Russian player protecting those airbases located along the Sea of Japan coastline. With his CAP down, our B-52 unit (stationed on Guam) could deliver its payload and cripple (maybe destroy) another Russian airbase. The North Korean pilots outnumbered and outclassed in Mig 23's repeatedly managed to drive off American, Japanese, and South Korean air superiority missions. Who trained those guys anyway? Time and numbers eventually wore the North Koreans down and by the end of the fifth day the NK airforce had been neutralized.
It was touch and go for the American TFs who had moved into the Hokkaido Zone attempting to make port in Japan. It was definitely a gauntlet as Russian submarines were everywhere. In my opinion, one of the dumber things we did was to slow down the TFs when a non-critical ship was damaged (such as a DD) rather than leaving the straggler behind. We also had problems making sure the carrier CAP covered everyone. More than once Russian bombers attacked a ship from "behind" at the edge of our CAP limit. But with careful play, the American TFs managed make port on the fourth Day.
On the fourth day the Wasp TF and Vinson TF docked in South Korean and the convoys from the north Pacific reached Japan. All the supply ships they carried were moved off the map and would count towards victory points. The CVN Vinson's group was combined with the escorts from the Wasp's group and this powerful TF was ordered into the Sea of Japan to attack the remaining Russian submarines and airbases located there. The CV Kittyhawk and the CV Midway groups were also combined and ordered to enter the Sea of Japan from the north. Had the war continued another day, attacks on the Soviet mainland would most likely have been overwhelming.