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  • November 2nd, 2021.

  • The world is reeling from the economic devastation brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic,

  • and for world powers, some see it as an opportunity to make a move.

  • Believing the United States is too distracted by China and the lingering effects of the

  • coronavirus, Russia makes its move in Eastern Europe, seeking at last to reunify its military

  • conclave of Kaliningrad with the motherland.

  • It'll also cut off the renegade Soviet provinces of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia from NATO,

  • and force them back into the loving arms of Mother Russia.

  • NATO immediately responds, but Quick Reaction Forces stationed along Eastern Europe are

  • no match for the overwhelming might of the Russian Army.

  • It'll take weeks for NATO to organize a proper military response- but the United States has

  • already begun to strike back.

  • Not in Eastern Europe, but in the Pacific.

  • A US naval task force, part of US Pacific Command, is on its way to attack the headquarters

  • of the Russian Pacific fleet in Vladivostok.

  • Russia's far east has always been problematic for the Russian military to defend.

  • The incredible size of Russia makes reinforcing the far east extremely difficult, and impossible

  • to accomplish in a timely manner.

  • Then again, the US stands to gain little by attacking Russia's far east, except for knocking

  • the Russians out of the Pacific for good.

  • A push into Russia from the east is impossible- the distances to any military objectives worth

  • seizing in the west entirely too far, and transportation networks easily sabotaged by

  • the Russians.

  • Russia however is not ready to give up its presence in the Pacific, and luckily for it

  • the Russian Pacific fleet is its second most powerful fleet.

  • Suffering from years of neglect though, that's not saying much.

  • Steaming out of their home port to meet the first American Carrier Strike Group enroute

  • to their shores is a fleet consisting of 6 destroyers and a half-dozen corvettes, led

  • by the Cruiser Varyag, flagship of the Russian Pacific Fleet.

  • The Russians know they're outmatched in open water, so instead opt to use the same tried

  • and true tactics of the 1904 Russo-Japanese war.

  • They'll be fighting the same way they fought the superior Japanese navy and the same way

  • the Soviet Union expected to fight the American navy- utilizing the doctrine of a 'fortress

  • fleet'.

  • Supported by shore-based installations and aircraft, the Russian Pacific fleet never

  • strays more than a few dozen miles from shore.

  • But the first strike against the Americans will come from below the waves.

  • The Russian submarine fleet has suffered from similar levels of neglect as the surface fleet,

  • however with only 1 active carrier in the Russian navy, great emphasis has been put

  • into maintaining available Russian submarines.

  • Gone are the glory days of the Soviet Navy, when hundreds of Soviet subs prowled the world's

  • oceans, forcing the Americans into a game of underwater cat and mouse.

  • Russian military command does not believe their Kilo class submarines, dating back to

  • the waning days of the Cold War, are survivable against the American fleet.

  • Therefore the Kilos are ordered to remain silent, close to shore, dashing in for attacks

  • of opportunity once the enemy fleet is fully engaged.

  • The three Improved Kilo class subs have a greater chance of approaching the American

  • strike group, but only the Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky is combat ready.

  • The attack will fall on the small fleet of Oscar IIs, capable of launching long range

  • attacks with anti-ship missiles.

  • Had the attack come just ten years earlier, the Russians would've likely found great success

  • using their subs against the Americans.

  • After developing the greatest anti-submarine warfare capabilities on the planet during

  • the Cold War, the United States allowed its ASW capabilities to seriously atrophy, resulting

  • in a series of embarrassing mission kills on American carriers during training exercises

  • with friendly nation's subs in the early 2000s.

  • However, the Americans were quick to correct their mistake, even contracting a Swedish

  • submarine for two years to help them restore their ASW capabilities.

  • The American 2021 fleet is not the 2001 fleet that couldn't see a submarine in a swimming

  • pool.

  • The four Russian subs must close to within 350 nautical miles to launch their Granit

  • anti-ship missiles.

  • They don't dare close in for torpedo strikes against the American carrier, knowing they'll

  • be easily spotted well before then.

  • In order to reduce the chance of detection, the subs approach the carrier strike group

  • on a thirty degree offset from each other, which has the benefit of greatly increasing

  • the search radius of the strike group's ASW assets.

  • The Americans know that the first strike will likely come from beneath the waves, and they've

  • been prepared.

  • ASW helicopters fan out dozens of miles around the strike group, equipped with torpedoes

  • and sonar that they periodically dip into the ocean to listen for the tell-tale acoustic

  • signature of a Russian sub.

  • American attack subs always held and advantage over their Soviet and Russian counterparts,

  • and during the Cold War US subs tailed Soviet subs without being detected, allowing them

  • to record a vast acoustic library of all known Soviet and now Russian submarines.

  • Further aiding the efforts in the hunt for the Russian subs are P-8 Poseidons based out

  • of Guam, Japan, and South Korea.

  • With the world's largest air tanker fleet, the United States is able to drastically increase

  • the range of its Poseidons, allowing the aircraft to sweep a corridor across the Pacific for

  • the carrier strike group.

  • The Poseidons lay down vast fields of air-dropped sonobuoys.

  • On contact with salt water, the sonobuoy's batteries activate.

  • Some of the buoys are set to active search mode, pinging the ocean for miles around them

  • with powerful sonar and listening to the report.

  • Others are set to passive, listening for the tell-tale sound of a Russian sub.

  • But further aiding the hunt for Russian submarines is a brand new development by the US Navy-

  • a radar that can penetrate the waves and detect the underwater wake of a submarine.

  • The subs can't evade the vast fields of sonobuoys deployed by the Poseidons, and eventually

  • each sub begins to generate a good track.

  • The Poseidons now drop down to just a few hundred feet above the waves, allowing their

  • Magnetic Anomaly Detector to verify the presence of the Russian submarine below.

  • Upon confirmation, each Poseidon drops two torpedoes.

  • The torpedoes don't even need to score a direct hit.

  • Even a miss of 100 feet generates so much pressure that a submarine's hull will rupture.

  • Round 1 goes to the Americans.

  • Submarines aren't the only way to kill a carrier though, and Russian Tu-22 bombers are already

  • airborne.

  • During the Cold War, Soviet military planners knew that attacking a carrier strike group

  • would be an extremely dicey proposition.

  • Official battle plans called for attacks with a minimum of 100 bombers, with an estimated

  • loss rate of 50%.

  • Even then, a mission kill was likely, but not an outright sinking, merely taking a carrier

  • out of action for a few months to a year as it underwent repairs.

  • Today, the Russian air forces only have 67 Tu-22s, and most of them are stationed in

  • the much more important western theater.

  • What they do have is the Granit anti-ship missile, capable of being launched from stand-off

  • ranges that should hopefully keep the bombers safely out of the strike group's air defenses.

  • Two dozen Tu-22s leave the Russian coast behind.

  • The American carrier is moving at full power, making it a surprisingly fast and evasive

  • target.

  • Russian satellites fix the carrier group's location for the bombers, but only for fifteen

  • minutes before they dip past the earth's horizon and lose radar contact.

  • The best way to fix the carrier long-term would be to use airborne radar assets- but

  • with American air bases in Japan hosting fleets of fighter aircraft, the awacs planes would

  • be splashed in a matter of hours.

  • The greatest difficulty Russian forces are having in taking the American carrier out

  • is simply finding the damned thing.

  • Satellite surveillance gives the Tu-22s a box a few hundred square miles wide where

  • the carrier could potentially be hiding.

  • Now the bombers must approach that target box and remain within range of their Granit

  • missiles- 388 miles (625km)- until a new satellite fix can help the bombers get better targeting

  • data.

  • The bombers could turn on their own radars, but that would make them stand out like a

  • spotlight in a dark room, making them easy prey for the carrier's combat air patrol.

  • While the Russians are having difficulty fixing the carrier's location, the Americans are

  • not having similar problems.

  • Even under intense cyberattack, the American recon satellite network is vast- outnumbered

  • only by the Chinese in physical assets, but not in capabilities.

  • AWACS planes launched from Japan each have a detection range of just over 250 miles,

  • and once more supported by aerial refueling tankers, US air forces are able to cover a

  • wide swath of Russia's pacific coast with radar coverage.

  • Further supplementing the land-based AWACS planes are carrier-launched Hawkeye airborne

  • radar planes and EA-18 'Growlers'.

  • The Russian attack wave is easily vectored and the carrier's combat air patrol dispatched.

  • While the Tu-22s must get within 388 miles to launch their attack, the carrier's F-18

  • Hornets and new F-35Cs each have a combat radius of over 1,200 miles.

  • Guided in by airborne radar, the F-35s take point.

  • The Tu-22s realize they've been targeted when the F-35's fire-control radar illuminates

  • them- but by then it's too late.

  • Countermeasures spoof a quarter of the incoming missiles, but 10 of the bombers are still

  • downed.

  • The limited missile capacity of the F-35 is its greatest weakness, able to carry only

  • four missiles internally in order to preserve its stealth capabilities.

  • Instead, the F-35s are forced to switch to guns, and for the first time in decades, US

  • fighters strafe enemy aircraft with guns.

  • Cannon capacity is also very limited on the F-35 however, and the Russian planes are built

  • tough.

  • Three more Tu-22s are splashed, leaving nine.

  • They're still hundreds of miles from launch though, and the follow-on F-18s may not be

  • stealthy, but with Russia unable to provide effective air cover past its shores, they

  • don't need to be.

  • The bombers are sitting ducks, speeding straight into a head-on deathmatch with the approaching

  • Hornets.

  • Wisely, the surviving nine Tu-22s turn around and head back for home.

  • Round 2 once more goes to the US.

  • As the surviving Tu-22s arrive home however, the crews are sent for chow and a few hours

  • sleep.

  • As they rest, the bombers are being refitted with a brand new weapon, just delivered from

  • the Western theater.

  • The Russian military still has very small numbers of them, and must use them extremely

  • judiciously- but with the strike group now within 1500 miles of shore, the time is now.

  • Half a day later, the Tu-22s are once more back in the air.

  • They know they'll be immediately spotted by American satellites and AWACS planes once

  • they leave the Russian coast, but this time they don't need to get so close to deliver

  • their deadly payload.

  • The Americans can't believe it- the Russians must be crazy.

  • They're trying the exact same attack that just failed so catastrophically.

  • Vectored in by Hawkeyes and Air Force AWACS, the combat air patrol once more moves to intercept

  • the incoming threat, well outside of anti-ship range.

  • This time, the Tu-22s only need to get within 1,000 miles of the carrier.

  • They have to once more rely on targeting data from the overhead satellites, meaning the

  • American carrier can only be fixed for brief moments at a time.

  • The carrier isn't close enough for shore installations to aid in tracking.

  • They must once more target a very large box of the Pacific Ocean, but this new Russian

  • weapon is fully capable of finding its own targets.

  • It's perfect for the task at hand, and long before the American's combat air patrol can

  • intercept them, each Tu-22 drops two 10 meter black and silver missiles from their wingtip

  • pylons.

  • The Zircon anti-ship missiles immediately fire their rocket engines, boosting them to

  • over two times the speed of sound.

  • The rocket engine now detaches from the missile and falls to the ocean below, as the missile's

  • scramjet fires into action.

  • The missile's scramjet engine has no moving parts- instead it compresses incoming supersonic

  • air and simply adds fuel, which causes the superheated air to explode, the energy redirected

  • behind the missile by the engine nozzle.

  • It's a brilliant design, but only works when you're already at supersonic speed, which

  • has limited its use by militaries for decades.

  • The missiles rise to the edge of the stratosphere, where the air-breathing engines can still

  • supply needed oxygen, but high enough that the missile's onboard targeting suite can

  • pinpoint the American carrier.

  • A stealthy body helps the missiles evade the American AEGIS radars sweeping the sky.

  • As a satellite enters proper phase over the earth, it sends a new fix on the carrier to

  • the missiles, redirecting their course and greatly increasing their accuracy.

  • A few dozen miles from their targets, the strike group's AEGIS radars begin to pinpoint

  • the incoming missiles.

  • Traveling at Mach 9 though, the strike group's missile defenses have less than 30 seconds

  • to respond.

  • The strike group's missile defense systems are fully automated- humans are no longer

  • fast enough to respond to deadly hypersonic threats.

  • Only a machine is up to the task, and the Americans have built themselves one hell of

  • a missile defense machine.

  • Beams of powerful electromagnetic energy reach up towards the missiles in an attempt to directly

  • interfere with the sensitive electronics of the targeting suite or confuse them.

  • Three missiles suddenly careen wildly off-course, tearing themselves apart thanks to their hypersonic

  • speed.

  • 15 missiles remain, 20 seconds to impact.

  • The destroyer escorts prepare to launch decoys.

  • They first deploy chaff as a means to make the missiles think a better target is somewhere

  • else through its super heated metal flakes.

  • However, it soon becomes apparent that these missiles are much more advanced than the Americans

  • thought when they don't even begin to alter course.

  • Quickly altering course themselves the destroyers deploy their more advanced nulka rounds that

  • are more powerful and try to walk the missiles away from the formation.

  • 15 seconds to impact.

  • The Russian missiles are finally within intercept range of the strike group's destroyers, and

  • within moments salvos of interceptors are fired.

  • However, the Russian missiles are moving at such incredible speeds that a superheated

  • layer of plasma around them is making radar lock difficult to maintain.

  • It takes 3 seconds for each volley of interceptors to be fired, and by the time the second volley

  • is fired the Russian missiles are too close to be intercepted by American RAMs.

  • Another four Russian missiles are splashed, 11 missiles remain.

  • 5 seconds to impact.

  • Each missile is now moving at almost 7,000 miles per hour (11113.2 kph) on their descent

  • phase.

  • The layer of superheated plasma around each missile grows in size as the missiles plunge

  • down and the atmosphere thickens.

  • The last line of defense for the strike group comes online, and will have mere seconds to

  • respond.

  • On ships across the strike group, CIWS cannons have already been placed on standby.

  • The plasma surrounding the descending missiles once more makes radar lock-on difficult to

  • achieve.

  • The missiles move so unbelievably fast that by the time they have entered CIWS range and

  • the CIWS systems have swiveled the cannons in the right direction, there's only 2 seconds

  • left to fire.

  • Most of the cannons never fire- there simply isn't enough time for the onboard radar to

  • work out a good lock through the layer of plasma around each missile.