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Old 01-19-2015, 09:08 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Here's one for a change of pace: A USN carrier vs. Badger Bombers...

Part I:

Kennedy vs. Badger



12 May, 1987: 1100 Hours Local Time: Cuban Air Force Operations Center, Havana, Cuba



Colonel Eduardo Toledo came into the operations center. A longtime MiG-21 and MiG-23 pilot, he was now deputy chief of operations for the entire Cuban Air Force, and right now, he was not a happy man. He had just come from a briefing at the Defense Ministry, and the news from the front in America was not looking good. The joint Soviet-Cuban offensive in Kansas, aimed at cutting off an American bulge in the lines near Wichita, was stalled, and was on the verge of failure. The Americans had been waiting for the Soviets and Cubans to attack, and had laid an appropriate welcome-and some were comparing the battle to Kursk, only this time, the Soviets were the ones doing the attacking, and the Americans had been the ones who'd had time to plan and prepare-and the Soviet and Cuban forces had suffered appallingly as a result. That didn't concern the Colonel, but what the Soviet military mission had proposed, and President Castro had agreed, did. A joint attack on the Port of Miami was being planned, and while the Soviets would handle the actual attack on the port with Su-24 Fencers, Cuba's only heavy strike regiment, the 38th Bomber Regiment, with Soviet-supplied Tu-16K Badger bombers, was also set to participate, using their KSR-2 (AS-5 Kelt) stand-off missiles to suppress the American defenses.

The rationale for the mission was obvious: the Port of Miami was where many of the weapons and equipment the Americans were getting from their overseas lackeys, such as Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa, was unloaded. Knocking out the port for a while would greatly assist the land campaign in North America, and send a strong signal to those who were supporting the Americans that there would be consequences for doing so, both now and in the future, after the inevitable triumph of the Socialist forces.

However, Toledo knew full well that things had changed: the Florida Peninsula was now heavily defended, with Key West, the Homestead-Miami area, Tampa Bay, Orlando, and the Cape Canaveral area were now guarded by HAWK and Patriot SAM batteries, many having been formerly deployed in West Germany, and that American fighters were a constant presence in Florida skies. Now, strikes into Florida required careful planning to avoid heavy losses, and even so, despite such planning, losses could-and often did-get high.

Now, he went to the situation board, and so far, all was quiet. Just the routine Cuban and Soviet fighter patrols over the island, and the Americans doing the same thing over the Florida Keys and South Florida. Occasionally, one side or the other would try a fighter sweep, hoping to draw their opponents' fighters into a free-for-all in the sky. Sometimes it worked, sometimes the would-be victim realized a sweep was on and would not give battle. More than once, American fighters had seemed to run from Soviet or Cuban fighters, only to draw the pursuers into SAM traps at either Key West or Homestead-Miami, and the Soviets and Cubans had fallen for it. And when the Cubans and Soviets tried the same trick, it rarely worked. And so far, there'd been few American strikes flown into Cuba: maybe the DMI and the GRU were right after all, and the Americans had pulled their strike-dedicated tactical fighters out of Florida and sent them to the front. What strikes had been flown, though, were apparently from carriers, and there wasn't much that could be done about that at the moment, for the carriers had one simple advantage: they could make runs into strike range of Cuba, launch their aircraft, wait for the strike to return, and after recovering their aircraft, head out into the Atlantic or the Caribbean. And so far, the Soviets and Cubans had been unsuccessful in countering the carriers, as strikes had been sent out to find the carriers, only to find empty ocean. Or the pathfinders-either Soviet Tu-95Rs or Cuban Tu-16Rs had either encountered American fighters, or had simply disappeared without getting a message out.

“Toledo, come into my office,” Major General Francsisco Estrada said from the open door of his office. Estrada was Air Force Operations Chief.

Toledo came into General Estrada's office. “Comrade General?”

Estrada was standing behind his desk. And he was clearly not in a good mood. “I've just gotten word from General Lorenzo.” General Antonio Lorenzo was the commanding general of the entire Cuban Air Force. “He's been ordered by the President to find an American carrier in the Atlantic or Caribbean and attack it.”

Toledo was stunned. “What? Excuse me, Comrade General, but did I hear correctly?”

“You did, Comrade Colonel.” Estrada spat. “Our President has decided to divert attention from what's happened in Kansas-and in case you haven't heard the latest, it's a bloody shambles. Both our forces and the Soviets tried to do to the Americans what the Germans tried in the Summer of 1943 at Kursk, and they failed. Now Wichita's the greatest tank battle ever, and the Americans have won. Now, the signs are there that the Americans have a major counteroffensive in the works.”

“Comrade General, if I may,” Toledo said. “That means an attack against Miami is all the more important. It requires the Americans to divert fighters and air-defense assets away from the front to reinforce Florida.”

“General Lorenzo said almost those exact words. And President Castro was very blunt: either carry out my orders to sink the carrier, or he would find someone who would.” Estrada said. “For now, the Miami strike is off. Order the 38th to start sending their Tu-16Rs into the Caribbean and into the Atlantic northeast of the Bahamas. Have their Tu-16Ks on alert, ready to go once a target is found.”

Toldeo sighed. “Comrade General, if I may?”

“By all means, Colonel.” Estrada said. “I've always valued your thoughts.”

“Thank you, Comrade General.” Toledo said. “Either this will be a wild-goose-chase, or it will be a tragedy.”

“I realize that, Colonel.” Estrada said. “But since the Soviets have pulled this off twice: America and Coral Sea, the President feels it should be our turn now.” He was referring to two American carriers that had been sunk by Soviet Backfire bomber strikes, and also to Castro's jealousy in that Cuba had not taken part.

“Understood, Comrade General,” Toledo said. “And if the strike aircraft cannot find a target?”

“There's always a target in Puerto Rico, if they have the fuel. Other than that, they're to come on home. Get the orders off at once.”

“Immediately, Comrade General.” replied Toledo.

38th Bomber Regiment, Holguin Air Base, Cuba: 1120 Hours, 12 May 1987:


The phone rang in Colonel Ricardo Duarte's office. He was the commanding officer of Cuba's only medium bomber regiment, and had been hand-picked for the job by General Lorenzo himself. A year in Russia, learning, along with his men, the Tu-16, before coming back to Cuba. The delivery flight had certainly been an unusual one: from the Soviet Far East to “liberated” Alaska, then to Calgary in occupied Canada, then a flight over the Great Plains under heavy fighter escort to a base in Oklahoma, then another trip to Houston, Texas, before the final run to Havana. There, they'd been greeted by President Castro himself, before they had gone into combat. His regiment had flown strikes with their KSR-2 missiles (AS-5a) against targets as far north as Charleston, South Carolina, up the Gulf Coast to New Orleans and Mobile, and throughout Florida as well, from Key West to Jacksonville and up to Pensacola. Not to mention going east to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on more then one occasion. However, the regiment had suffered losses, for the unit had once been forty strike aircraft strong, and was now down to 30, though they had received some replacements.. The regiment's reconnaissance squadron had once numbered ten Tu-16RM (Badger-D) aircraft, and was now down to four.

Now, his men were planning their part in a proposed mission to the Port of Miami, to hopefully shut down the port for a while, and reassert some form of control over the Straits of Florida. His bombers were to shoot their KSR-2 missiles at known American SAM sites in the Homestead-Miami area, as well as at Homestead AFB, while Soviet Su-24s actually attacked the port facilities and any ships at anchor. And given the American defenses that had been in place for over a year, he didn't envy the Soviets one bit: HAWK and Patriot missile batteries, many formerly deployed in West Germany, now protected not just the Homestead-Miami area, but many key installations in Florida proper: his men had found that out the hard way, when six of his aircraft had tried to attack Kennedy Space Center the previous fall, only to find out that not only had American fighters been stationed at nearby Patrick AFB, but a HAWK battery was also in place. None of the KSR-2s had found a target, and four of the six bombers were lost with their crews.

The phone kept ringing, and Colonel Duarte picked it up. “Duarte here.”

“Colonel? This is Colonel Toledo at Air Force Operations. I'll be blunt as well as brief. Your mission to Miami is on hold. There's a new mission coming down, and you'll receive teletype orders in a few minutes.”

“What's the new mission?” Duarte asked.

“Anti-carrier.” Toledo said. “Send two of your Tu-16RMs to the northeast, past the Bahamas, and direct the other two south of Jamaica, then send them east as far as fuel permits.”

“WHAT?” Duarte yelled. “No definite targeting information, so we just send my aircraft out in the general direction of a carrier-and we don't know if any are on station right now?”

“I'm afraid so, Colonel. This comes from the top echelon of command.” Toledo said. And Duarte knew full well who Toledo meant by that.

“I understand, Colonel. But the chances of finding a carrier are slim, at best, this way. And you know that.” Duarte shot back.

“Hold on,” Toledo said. “What's the saying, 'preaching to the converted'?” He went on, though. “But we've got no choice. If you can't find a carrier, come on home.”

“At least I can thank you for that,” Duarte said. He then hung up the phone and went into the operations office, where his senior staff and senior pilots were planning the Miami mission. “Put all of that on hold. We have a new mission.” And he outlined what Toledo had told him.

“Of all the....” his operations officer said. “This sounds like a good way to get a lot of us killed. If we run into American fighters, we're easy prey, no matter what.”

“I know, Luis.” Duarte said. “If it's any consolation, I will be in the lead strike aircraft.” He turned to the map. “Send Captains Infante and Torres to the northeast sector, and have Captain Delgado and Lieutenant Moreno take the southern flight.”

“And when do we know which way to go?” his Executive officer asked.

“We'll know in the air. The aircraft are already armed, correct?”

The Exec nodded. “Yes, Comrade Colonel.”

“Good. Get the aircraft fueled immediately. We'll brief the crews while that's going on, and chances are, we'll get word of a target in the air,” Duarte said. “Now get to it!”

His staff broke up to get things going, while Colonel Duarte went back into his office. He took out a pen and paper, and then wrote a brief note to his wife. He knew full well that if F-14s, F/A-18s, or even F-8s from a carrier found his bombers, it would be a massacre.


U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (CV-67), south of the Mona Passage, 1155 Hours local time.


The supercarrier John F. Kennedy and her battle group was south of the Mona Passage, between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, heading to a launch point south of Cuba. The station was well known to the carrier's crew, who called it “Buccaneer Station,” for the area had been an old haunt of the famous buccaneers back in the day of men like Sir Henry Morgan, or Sir Christopher Myngs, and the name had stuck. From that station, her embarked aircraft from CVW-3 could strike targets all over southeastern Cuba, and had done so often since the war began.

Rear Admiral James Mattingly, USN, commanded what was now Carrier Task Force 44. Once the carrier passed Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, she was “chopped” to the Fourth Fleet, which had been established shortly after the outbreak of war, to direct naval operations in the Caribbean. Sometimes, there were two carriers, sometimes just one, on this station, but there had been always a carrier in the area. Strikes had been coordinated with the carriers on “Devil Station” east of the Bahamas, for that was in the area of the legendary “Devil's Triangle”, and for the most part, had gone off without incident, whether natural, Soviet- or Cuban-inspired, or supernatural. Though Admiral Mattingly had a good laugh once when he checked the chart showing the carrier's course from Norfolk to Puerto Rico, and someone had carefully drawn a triangle connecting Bermuda, Miami, and San Juan.

His orders were to strike targets in Eastern Cuba, as far up as Holguin, and to do so as long as fuel and ordnance permitted, but without incurring unnecessary losses to his aircraft. And CVW-3's squadrons had gotten very familiar with Cuba over the course of the war, and many of the aviators knew the landscape like the backs of their hands as a result.

Now, he sat in his chair on the flag bridge, watching the carrier conduct flight operations. A CAP of two to four F-14s was always in the air, along with S-3 Vikings for ASW, and SH-3H helicopters for close-in ASW protection. Not only that, but SH-2 and SH-60 helicopters from the other ships in the battle group provided additional ASW protection, along with P-3C Orions based at NAS Roosevelt Roads.

Besides the carrier, Task Force 44 consisted of the AEGIS cruiser Valley Forge, completed after the war began, and having already acquitted herself well during combat in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits. TF-44 also had the services of the nuclear-powered cruiser South Carolina, along with the destroyers Semmes and Dewey for additional anti-air warfare (AAW) and the Spruance-class destroyer Briscoe as the lead ASW escort. Two Perry-class frigates, Boone and Halyburton, added to the ASW screen, and there was at least one SSN in direct support. Given the Soviet sub base at Cienfeugos, the Admiral felt that one could never have too much ASW.

And there was also ample land-based support available. E-2B+ Hawkeyes from Roosevelt Roads handled AWACS responsibilities for Puerto Rico, and VAW-77's operators had done a magnificent job in detecting aircraft inbound, and vectoring fighters onto the bandits. The Air Force had sent the PR ANG's 156th TFG to the mainland, and had been searching for a replacement to handle the island's air defense, when the loss of the carrier America had enabled the Navy to fill the role. VF-33 had survived the loss of its home carrier, and after a period of reconstitution at NAS Oceana, had deployed to NAS Roosevelt Roads to handle the air defense of Puerto Rico. And the Starfighters had been joined by their sister squadron, VF-102, once they had been reformed, deploying to the former Ramey AFB near Borinquen, which had become a Coast Guard base after the departure of the Air Force, and was now designated as NAS Borinquen. In addition, a VQ-2 detachment with both EA-3B Skywarriors and EP-3 Orions for SIGINT and other electronic intelligence activities now based there often provided raid warning by listening in on Soviet and Cuban radio traffic.

The only two neutrals in the area, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, lacked any real air power, and both sides routinely violated neutral airspace, sometimes en route to a target, or in hot pursuit. The Jamaicans, being Commonwealth members, and having had to deal with a pro-Cuban uprising in the war's early days, also lacked an air force, but Jamaican air-traffic control radars often tracked outbound Cuban or Soviet aircraft, and broadcast raid warnings-in the clear-over the two main international emergency channels.

“Admiral?” A staff officer said, interrupting his thoughts.

“Yes?”

“Surface radar contact, bearing three-five-eight relative, range two hundred. And closing,”

“Notify CAG, and have him get a couple of A-7s out to ID. There's no friendlies ahead of us, so it's either neutral or enemy.” Mattingly said.

“Right away, Admiral.” the staffer said.

Five minutes later, two A-7s from VA-46 launched and headed out after the contact. They were armed, of course, with two Sidewinders and six five-hundred-pound bombs apiece, typical for a Surface Combat Air Patrol.

After he watched the launch, he turned to his Chief of Staff. “Anything on sub activity?”

“No, Admiral, none at all since the last update.”

“What have we got?” Mattingly wanted to know.

The chief of staff went to a map showing the Caribbean. “Right now, there's at least one Echo-II in the Windward Passage, along with a Victor-II; and in the Mona Passage there's at least one Foxtrot, maybe two. Satellite imagery of Cienfeugos shows two cruise-missile boats, one a Charlie-II, and an Oscar, both tied up at pierside.”

“Awful nice of them. If they're still in port when we get there, we can take them out easily enough. Better to kill them at pierside than hunting them at sea.” Mattingly said.

“Yes, Sir.” the chief replied.

The phone buzzed, and the chief picked it up. “Flag Mission.” He listened for a minute, then relayed the message to the Admiral. “Admiral, this just in from the Ravens:” Ravens was the usual code for the ELINT aircraft. “They're reporting four Badgers outbound from Holguin. Two headed northeast, two headed south.”

Mattingly turned to his intelligence officer. “Thoughts?”

The intelligence officer looked at the map, then she replied. “Four Badgers sounds like a reconnaissance flight. Two headed northeast to look at Devil Station, and two coming this way. They'll strike whoever they locate first. Either Bon Homme Richard, or us.”

Admiral Mattingly looked at his chief of staff, who nodded in agreement. “Very well.” He picked up the phone to the bridge. “Bridge, this is Flag. Notify the battle group. Go to Battle Stations.”

As the General Quarters alarm sounded, he turned to his staff. “Let's get to CIC.”


Cuban Foxtrot-class submarine 914, south of Mona Passage, 1220 Hours:


Captain Joaquin Torres looked over his chart. So far, no viable targets had been found, and though his wretched Feniks sonar was puny compared to what was installed on Soviet boats like the 641B (Tango) or the new 877 (Kilo) subs, his crew was one of the best in the Navy. He'd sunk several ships in the Florida Straits in the early days of the war, and had gone as far north as Jacksonville and laid some mines, which may have accounted for a few more ships. Now, though, the ASW environment off the American East Coast was now very hazardous to an old boat like his, and with the Americans now mounting carrier strikes against Cuba on a routine basis, Naval Operations had sent his boat-and Cuba's one other 641 (Foxtrot) class boat-into the Caribbean, where the threat level was decreased, though the opportunities for other targets were lacking. The Americans and their lackeys were running convoys from the Panama Canal up past Puerto Rico, and avoiding the Windward Passage altogether. And those convoys were well guarded by destroyers, frigates, and land-based patrol aircraft from either Panama or Puerto Rico.

Now, he decided to come to periscope depth. A routine sweep, perhaps get his ESM mast up to listen for any radar signals, and maybe, just maybe, find a target. He turned to his First Officer. “Periscope depth.”

“Periscope depth, aye,” the first officer responded, and the boat came slowly to twenty meters. “At periscope depth, Comrade Captain.”

Torres nodded. “Up scope.”

As the periscope came up, he began his sweep. “Nothing here...”


Up above, an SH-3H Sea King from HS-7 was on ASW patrol, out looking for hostile submarines. The pilot was brand-new to the left seat, having been in SH-3s for a year now. And she had never stopped wondering how something could be exciting yet boring at the same time. Once, when she'd asked that out loud to her copilot, he'd replied that ASW guys had been asking the same thing since World War I. She'd never dropped on a contact, but had seen the aftermath of sub attacks more than once, going out on search-and-rescue for survivors of ships that had fallen prey to Soviet subs. Seeing that had only made her determined to find a contact-and kill it.

She was searching visually, while her copilot was actually flying the helo. The two sonar operators were listening to several sonobuoys that had been laid earlier, and so far, nothing had been found. Then she saw it at her eleven o'clock.. “Holy gawd! That's a freakin' periscope!”

The copilot noticed it too. “Got it. You want an active buoy?”

“Hell, no! Arm a fish, left search pattern.”

The copilot set it up. “Ready.”

When the pilot pushed her pickle button, a Mark-46 torpedo fell from the helo, a parachute streamed to slow the torpedo down, then after it entered the water, began searching for its prey. It soon found it.

The Mark-46 tore into the submarine amidships, just below the conning tower. And right into the central command post. Captain Torres and his crew died without knowing they were even under attack.

“A hit!” the pilot yelled. A gout of water spouted up, and soon, there was oil, wreckage, and even a body coming to the surface.

The copilot nodded, while one of the systems operators tuned things in. They heard the breakup noises, then the CRUNCH as the boat plunged below crush depth. “Well, Joanie, looks like you got yourself a sub.”

She looked at the copilot, then back in the cabin, where the two operators were looking back, grinning. “No. We all got him.”


Kennedy CIC, 1225 Hours.


“Admiral, Dipper 613 reports dropping on a periscope nine-zero miles ahead of us. No friendlies in the area.” the group's ASW officer reported from Briscoe.

“Where's that position?” Mattingly wanted to know.

“Just south of the passage itself. And if the helo hadn't dropped on it, we would've met it in three hours or so.” the TAO said.

“ID on the boat?” Mattingly asked.

“No, sir. Just wreckage and oil, plus a body.” the ASW officer responded.

The Admiral turned to his chief of staff. “Was this one of the boats in the ASW Sitrep?”

“Possible, sir. The known boat in Mona Passage was last reported at the northern end of the passage. They did have a report on a second, but it was unconfirmed,” the chief replied.

Admiral Mattingly nodded. “Get another helo out there ASAP. Find out who it was; get some wreckage, and recover that body if at all possible.”

“Aye, aye, Sir.” the chief replied.
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