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Default The Winter War Pt 2: Operation Tchaikovsky

Webstral 06-19-2004, 03:25 AM On November 14, 1995, Soviet Frontal Aviation began a massive assault on the People's Republic of China aided by elements of Frontal Aviation, the Air Defense Force, and Naval Aviation. The Soviets had decided to overwhelm the Chinese air defenses by opening their main air offensive, code-named TCHAIKOVSKY, with the greatest concentration of aerial combat and support assets that could be mustered. The short-term goal of TCHAIKOVSKY was to destroy or neutralize China's air defenses north of the Huang Ho and establish air supremacy in that area of operations. The long-term goal was nothing less than the systematic eradication of China's industrial capabilities north of the Huang Ho through air attacks on industry, lines of communications, and power plants.


In many regards, TCHAIKOVSKY had more in common with the Americans' Vietnam-era ROLLING THUNDER than with the Americans' DESERT STORM. The latter was principally a military operation intended to pave the way for follow-on action by ground forces. ROLLING THUNDER, on the other hand, was intended to convince Hanoi to stop supporting the NLA in Republic of Vietnam by attacking Vietnamese infrastructure north of the DMZ. Unlike ROLLING THUNDER, TCHAIKOVSKY had no self-imposed limitations on the types of targets to be attacked. Indeed, the Soviets understood that they would have to inflict massive damage on China to convince her leadership that continuing the war in Manchuria was not worth the price to be paid. In this, the Soviets came very close to succeeding and probably would have forced a settlement on China had the West--particularly the United States--not provided copious financial, food, and military assistance.


Taking advantage of the limited ability of the PLAAF to put up interceptors at night, the Soviets launched TCHAIKOVSKY in the hours before dawn on November 14. More than one hundred bombers participated in the initial attack, launching a variety of missiles at stand-off ranges at Chinese air defense assets along the northern arc of Chinese-held territory. The principle targets were China's air defense command-and-control nodes, airfields, radar sites and SAM centers that had survived the August-October period of fighting or had been repaired and rebuilt. Soviet intent was to copy the US scheme in Desert Storm on a grand scale, tearing a series of holes in the Chinese air defense network through which cruise missiles, bombers, fighter-bombers, and their escorts would attack.


The initial attacks mostly were successful. Squadrons of Backfire bombers from across the Soviet Union engaged identified air defense assets from eastern Manchuria to Inner Mongolia with air-launched cruise missiles and stand-off AGMs. Huge strike packages supported by the most intensive EW effort the Soviets could muster flew through the gaps that were to have been opened by the initial strikes to attack high-priority targets throughout northeastern China. Although not every gap had been opened as hoped for, the Soviets had accounted for this eventuality. The strike packages of the first wave included generous flak suppression, jamming, and other support. Where necessary, the Soviets would simply smash their way to the target. Throughout the pre-dawn hours, the horizons were alight with missiles screaming into the sky and down from the sky, with flashes of gunfire from Chinese ADA systems, and with the thunderous detonation of Soviet ordnance on the ground along with burning fuel, ammunition, and other combustibles.


By dawn, the first Soviet attack missions were winging their way home. The stunned Chinese air defense command was trying to pull itself together. The air campaign over Manchuria hadn't prepared the Chinese for this. The Soviets had done a surprisingly good job of identifying SAM defenses prior to the start of TCHAIKOVSKY, and their concentrated missile attacks on the SAM sites along their planned routes of penetration had been thorough and effective. The incoming strike missions flew above the range of Chinese ADA, thus making SAM the only effective response in the hours before dawn. Few of the SAM fired were able to track through the very dense jamming support of the strike packages, while each SAM site firing received the attention of at least one radar-seeking missile. Thus while some of the SAM within range of the Soviet corridors through the northeastern China air defenses had survived the initial onslaught, they were identified and destroyed by the muscular escort of the bomb-movers of the initial strike missions. Much the same occurred along the flight paths of the strike missions.


Damage on the ground was significant. The PLAAF headquarters in Beijing, thus far unscathed, was destroyed by two direct hits from laser-guided bombs (along with several misses). The actual command had long since moved to alternate sites, but the results were demoralizing nevertheless. Other important command-and-control nodes were destroyed or badly damaged. Several important airfields had been hit, their runways cut and saturated with anti-personnel mines. The radar network also had suffered significant damage.


Daylight brought little reprieve. No sooner had the sun come up than the Soviets launched dozens of smaller strikes using two-or four-ship elements executing low-level penetration missions. Without friendly fighter, flak suppression, or EW escort, these smaller packages relied on speed and surprise to reach their targets. It was much the same mode of operation as the PLAAF had recently demonstrated in Manchuria with their own Q-5 fighter-bombers. Anticipating that the PLAAF would scramble interceptors as soon as the light allowed them to operate effectively, the Soviets vectored their small-scale missions across intact segments of the Chinese air defense umbrella.


For the next few hours, the frustrated Chinese attempted to repair the damage of the initial attack and chase down the low-level raiders. Then, in early afternoon, the Soviets launched their next major attack. Putting more than 750 aircraft into a single multi-dimensional effort, the Soviets punched through the same air corridors they had used that morning and fanned out into the rear to hit more critical air defense assets. This time, the Chinese sent up as many fighters as they could. However, as in the past the Chinese J-4 and J-6 fighters were savagely handled by the Su-27 and MiG-31 escorts of the Soviet bomb movers.


For the next seven days, the SAF launched three major attacks every day. The coordination effort was immense, surpassing even the US-led Coalition efforts in the Persian Gulf at the beginning of the decade. Though there were problems, the Soviets managed to master the airspace issues associated with running an air battle involving upwards of a thousand friendly aircraft of all types stretched across a front of more than 1500 kilometers, moving through a depth of more than 3000 kilometers (in the case of Long Range Aviation assets coming from distant parts of the Soviet Union), and fighting from altitudes of 150 to 10,000 meters. The sheer numbers of EW support aircraft swamped the Chinese air defenses, enabling the strike groups to reach their targets against spotty opposition.


As they had at the beginning of the war, the PLAAF tried to get as many fighters into the air to challenge the Soviets as possible. However, they were unable to realize the potential advantage of operating inside their own airspace and inside their own radar coverage because the Soviet EW support was so very dense. Worse, the Soviets proved capable of hitting PLAAF ground-based command-and-control nodes to a degree not seen during the ground campaign in Manchuria. Despite the best efforts of the Chinese to harden and camouflage their command network, the SAF tore the system north of the Yangtze River to pieces within a few days.


Command-and-control assets south of the Yangtze survived, and the PLAAF attempted to run the defensive air battle from there with limited success. Often, the pieces of the air defense system were unable to talk to each other because the SAF thoroughly attacked the communications hubs and established electronic superiority from the onset of TCHAIKOVSKY. At first, the Soviets tended to transit to their targets above 3500 meters--out of the effective range of almost all the Chinese ADA systems. Whenever SAM engaged Soviet groups passing overhead, the air defense battery would receive the attention of flak suppression units. With sheer numbers and firepower, the Soviets blasted their way through the Chinese ground-based defenses and rained destruction down on their chosen targets.


After ten days, the PLAAF simply started evacuating what aircraft could be removed from airfields north of the Yangtze. Chinese efforts to conduct counter-air operations and fighter-based air defense were being crushed. The PLAAF could not control the airspace over its own bases, much less offer a convincing challenge to the Soviets elsewhere north of the Yangtze. Chinese ground-based systems only survived when they did not offer challenge to the massive Soviet strike groups passing overhead.


Thus the SAF was able to realize success in its opening gambit by practicing the war-fighting elements the Army was supposed to use. Speed, shock, fire, and maneuver were successfully employed as the Soviets concentrated their efforts into a relative handful of attacks conducted on a massive scale. The sheer scope of the Soviet air attacks overwhelmed Chinese response and virtually guaranteed the complete destruction of the assigned targets, be they air fields, radar, control centers, or SAM/ADA sites. Systematically working from one set of targets to the next, the Soviets eliminated the northern Chinese air defenses with ruthless and breathtaking effectiveness.


During the second week of operations, the pace slowed somewhat. The Soviets had managed to launch three major efforts per day by running their aircraft and crews at maximum tempo and by using only a portion of the aircraft on the rosters for each attack. However, by November 25, maintenance requirements were once again catching up with the Soviets. Determined to maintain the advantages of saturating the Chinese air defenses, the Soviets scaled back their attacks to one massive main effort per day, supplemented by much smaller round-the-clock efforts.


Soviet attacks on Chinese air defenses continued into December. The Soviet air chiefs were given a nearly-ideal situation, and they made the most of it. For thirty days, they had huge numbers of aircraft devoted to nothing but missions against the enemy's air defense network. Close air support missions in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia had been handed to the rotary wing elements of Frontal Aviation. Though the use of cruise missiles and other smart weapons had been sharply curtailed after the first several days, the continued degradation of the Chinese air defenses north of the Yangtze had allowed the Soviets to bring in their obsolescent aircraft. Throughout the last few days of November and into December, the Soviets brought MiG-21s, MiG-19s, Su-7s, and Su-19s into the fight employing standard iron bombs and rockets against Chinese ADA positions and other targets. The Soviets were determined to achieve air supremacy over the northeastern quarter of China.


During this time, the Soviets also began to attack PLAAF airfields south of the Yangtze. Determined to maintain at least some ability to challenge the Soviets in the air over Beijing and other northeastern targets, the Chinese fought hard to defend these bases. A formidable ADA presence was established around the front-line bases south of the Yangtze. The Soviets responded to this challenge by using more stand-off weapons and ballistic missiles with conventional warheads. The PLAAF continued to lose aircraft on the ground, and they continued to have aircraft unavailable for long periods because the runways needed to scramble the planes were damaged.


On December 10, 1995 the Soviets shifted their main effort from the destruction of the Chinese air defense network to the destruction of the industrial and communications infrastructure of northeastern China. In approximately thirty days of intensive efforts, they had smashed the enemy's air defenses north of the Yangtze. It was not that the Chinese had no air defenses whatsoever; large numbers of light- and medium-caliber antiaircraft guns survived throughout the northeastern corner of China. Self-propelled SAM also survived in substantial numbers, although attrition here had been quite high. However, the fixed and low-mobility assets had been torn to pieces. Although some radar continued to operate--especially radar attached to self-propelled SAM--the integrated air defense network had simply ceased to exist as such. Not a single fixed radar was operational anywhere north of the Yangtze, and the high- and medium-altitude SAM network had been rendered nearly useless as an integrated system.


The Soviets now engaged in a deliberate and systematic effort against the entire basis of northeastern China as an industrial society. Within a given area, Soviet air attacks struck every target on a prioritized list that included power plants, rail hubs, bridges, defense industries, petroleum storage, and other factories that had survived the initial onslaught. Instead of destroying power plants on a broad and regional basis, the Soviets attacked every worthwhile target in a much smaller area, starting with metropolitan Beijing.


Although the Soviets did not deliberately target residential areas within Beijing as a whole, they did use residential areas to their advantage. The Soviet attack aircraft widely employed incendiary devices along with high explosives. When an industrial area was hit, adjacent residential neighborhoods would receive attention with incendiary bombs. As a result, relief efforts into the industrial area were badly hampered by the presence of fierce fires between fire stations outside the immediate area and the bombed factories. Deliberate and dedicated attention to the bridges and high-speed lines of communication within Beijing further hamstrung damage control efforts.


The Chinese fully expected attacks on the power plants, petroleum storage, and critical industries. What they did not expect was the systematic destruction of all large-scale industry in greater Beijing. Day after day and night after night, Soviet raiders returned in large numbers to rain destruction on the Chinese capital. The road and rail networks were cut to ribbons. Factories with no relationship to the war effort were razed, as were banks and governmental institutions. Dozens of Chinese pilots lost their lives in vain efforts to stop the procession of bombers flying over their capitol, and still the bombing went on. The destruction was far different than anything seen during the air campaign in Manchuria, and the Chinese were badly shaken.


As Operation Desert Storm had demonstrated, the destructive potential of air power had been revolutionized since the Second World War. Though fewer aircraft were in operation compared to the massive air fleets operated by the Allies in World War Two, both the bomb-moving capability of single aircraft and the ability of the pilots to deliver their ordnance on-target had advanced enormously. Whereas in 1944 as many as five hundred sorties by B-17s might have been required for the Americans to place a single 500 lb. bomb inside a 25-meter circle, in 1995 that number had dropped as low as a single sortie by an F-117. Although Soviet air power had not enjoyed quite the same precipitous rise in effectiveness, it certainly was possible for the Soviets to accomplish the same thing in five to ten sorties.


As a result, the ability of the Soviets to destroy industrial and infrastructure targets in Beijing from the air using only conventional weapons came as a rude shock to the Chinese. The Soviets attacked virtually everything of value, wiping out factories, power plants, rail yards, bridges, and essentially everything that made Beijing a city. Though residential areas were not targeted strictly for the sake of killing civilians, loss of life was tremendous. To make matters worse, the Soviets laid anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines along avenues of approach to the areas they attacked. Emergency response crews moving to areas that were under attack frequently ran afoul of the mines. On December 22, the Soviets launched an operation to knock down several of the city's most visible high-rise buildings. The collapse of several of them were captured by Western media and rebroadcast around the world.


Through the remainder of December, the Soviets subjected Beijing to a pitiless aerial bombardment. They maintained attacks on other targets throughout northeastern China to forestall significant repair of the Chinese air defense network, but the real focus was Beijing. Despite the best efforts of the Chinese security forces to keep control of the citizenry, the populace of Beijing streamed out of the city. The Western media captured images of jammed roads and trains leaving Beijing. All over China people managed to see images of their capital being reduced to rubble, the people scattering to the countryside. It was deeply demoralizing.


In Ottawa, the Soviet ambassador to Canada gave the Chinese ambassador to Canada an offer to lift the aerial bombardment at the end of 1995. The destruction of Beijing showed that the Soviet Union did not need to resort to NBC weapons to ruin China. Surely, with the Soviet Union in possession of Manchuria and the capitol of China reduced to rubble, the Chinese Politburo would come to their senses and bring the war to an end. Otherwise, the destruction would go on until China either capitulated or ceased to be an industrialized society.


For Zhu and for Communist China it was a moment of truth. The PLA and the PLAAF appeared to have failed the nation. If the one-sided destruction continued, the Chinese people would turn on the Communist Party--or at least on Zhu and his supporters. Premier Zhu might well have given in at that moment, save for the support of the United States.


Webstral

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Matt Wiser 06-20-2004, 03:16 AM Well done, as usual! How soon until Part III of the Winter War comes? A typo-the Su-19 was what NATO originally thought was the number for the Su-24 Fencer. You should have meant the Su-17/22?

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thefusilier 06-20-2004, 12:48 PM Sounds really good. I've always like your in depth work. It makes Twilight 2000 seem even more alive now with "new" material. Can't wait for more.

thefusilier

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Jason Weiser 06-20-2004, 03:19 PM He's back everybody!


Whohohohohohhohohohohohho! (Hops around like Daffy Duck in sherr manic delight!


*CLANG* a sledgehammer from seemingly out of nowhere knocks Jason senseless....

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dawg180 06-22-2004, 12:23 PM Webstral,


As usual your writing is OUTSTANDING!


If you would like I have the ability to make PDF files and if you want I can take the various chapters of your novel (because that is the way it is headed), convert them all, and host them at my website, even as just a "draft" copy for all to review. Send me an email if you are interested!


Dawg

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thefusilier 06-22-2004, 07:20 PM I for one would like to see your work put out as dawg mentioned. I have all of them, but have yet to put them in order. This way I am also sure I didn't miss any.

thefusilier

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Dogger 06-23-2004, 12:31 AM Great stuff as always Web's

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Webstral 06-23-2004, 04:04 AM You guys are much too kind!


Good catch, Matt.


Webstral

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