Sixth Fleet – ASW in the Med.

The USS Baltimore (SSN-704) underway.

This is a brief report of Scenario 1 from Victory Games’ 1986 classic, Sixth Fleet designed by Joltin’ Joe Balkoski.

This is a simple short scenario with clear objectives: sink the other guy’s subs before the end of Turn 9.

The background is pretty basic. The USSR wants control of the Med so it can have a free hand at destroying NATO merchant shipping bound for Israel. A couple of US submarines need to stop this from happening.

Setup is as follows:

SS Byngi (Kilo-class) and SN Drabov (Victor III) set up in the Western Mediterranean. Both subs are decent with ASW values of 6. Both are pretty quiet and hard to detect. The US gets a Sturgeon-class boat, USS Drum (SSN-677), just east of Gibraltar. It’s not as sturdy as a Los Angeles-class submarine, but still packs a punch with its ASW value of 9.

SN Sumy (Victor III) and SN Nezhin (Alfa-class) are placed in the Tyrrhenian Sea, ready to strike the USS Baltimore! The Nezhin is the true threat here with an ASW value equal to the Los Angeles class submarine and a tough hull value of 7. What’s most amazing here is its speed.

The Alfas could run at an estimated 42 knots and this is reflected by their counter speed of 5. They are among the fastest naval units in the game. As a side note, they could dive down to around 2000 feet or more, which was far deeper than any NATO sub could travel.

To say that the West was concerned about these subs is an understatement. The capabilities of the Alfas dominated NATO naval weapons development well into the 1980s. Most notably, this lead to several new torpedo programs, including the American ADCAP Mark 48 torpedo and the British “Spearfish.”

SturgeonLos AngelesKiloVictorAlfa
Speed (kts)
2525+203242
Displace.
(tons)
4,2705,7143,9507,2503,680
Test Depth
(m/ft)
396/1300450/1470240/780320/1050750/2460
Complement10911052~10031

All that worry was for naught. Only 7 Alfas were built. They were noisy, unreliable, and insanely expensive to boot. All seven boats were decommissioned and slated for the scrapheap by the mid-90s. Great article about them here.

The Soviets have a T16 recon flight sitting in Annaba, Algeria. I had no idea that Moscow and Algiers were buddies. A little digging revealed that the Russians provided 11 billion dollars worth of military equipment to the country during the Cold War. That explains it!

The Soviets outnumber the Americans but the US player has more air power. There are four P3 Orions available. A good mix of recon and tactical coordination should be enough to even the odds.

Turn 1:

Strategic Air:

The Russians try to detect the USS Baltimore and fail miserably with a roll of 6. The US has no luck detecting the Byngi or the Sumi. The noisy Alfa, though is detected quite easily. A Detected marker is placed on the Nehzin.

The Drum moves east three hexes while the Baltimore moves west in hopes of joining up with it and wreaking havoc on the Soviet sub fleet. Byngi and Drabov move west to cut off the Drum while Sumy and Nehzin pursue the Baltimore.

Turn 2:

The Baltimore moves 4 hexes straight west while the Drum moves one hex toward the Byngi.

Sumy and Nehzn catch up to Baltimore and Drabov closes in on Drum. Drum and Byngi are detected. Baltimore and Sumy detect each other. A fight is brewing.

Turn 3:

Baltimore vs. Sumy:(w/ Tac Coord): 3 + 1: 4

Sumy is damaged!

Drum vs. Byngi: 4

The Byngi is damaged!

Drabov moves north and attacks Drum. We roll a 5. No effect!

Nehzn chases after Baltimore and damages it. The run of luck for the US ends.

Turn 4:

Strategic Air Phase:

A big ol’ stack of planes.

Both sides commit everything to Tac Coordination in the Western Med.

US gets initiative and send the Drum up to deal with the Nehzin. We add three Tac Coordination planes in to seal the deal. Rolling a 5 for a modified 8, we deal 5 damage to the Russian sub, which is enough to flip it over. The damaged Baltimore attacks the Drabov but fails to inflict damage.

The Drabov moves one hex east and attacks the Drum, hoping to damage it with the help of Tactical Coordination. The result is a modified 3. Not a chance.

The Soviets go and the Nehzin deals a hit against the Drum. Both US subs are now damaged.

Turn 5:

Both US subs attempt to deal damage against the Drabov. Both fail.

The Soviet Drabov manages to sink the USS Drum! The Americans are down to a single damaged sub. Things don’t look good. The Baltimore is trapped on all sides by the Soviets.

Turn 6:

Every Soviet sub takes its turn hammering away on the elusive Baltimore. Can it survive?! A string of bad rolls results in no damage! The Americans try to strike back but are stymied. The Baltimore races west in an attempt to outrun the Russians.

Turn 7:

Strategic Air:

Russians on reconnaisance and American planes on Tactical Coordination.

Here we go! The Soviets fail to detect the fleeing Baltimore! The US sub goes toward Gibraltar. The Soviets give chase!

Turn 8:

The Soviets are hot on the heels of the Baltimore!

Turn 9:

The Soviets take a parting shot at the Baltimore before it leaves Gibraltar. The Nezhin nearly damages it with a roll of 5. Had I put the Soviet T16 on Tac coordination, this would have meant the death of the US sub. The Drabov takes a shot and misses too. The Baltimore sneaks off a parting shot at the Drabov, damaging it and then races out of the Mediterranean.

Result: Since neither side was able to sink all of the other side’s subs, this is a draw. Interesting to see how this scenario can turn on a dime from straight up combat to desperate retreat. Back in the Kremlin, Admiral Gorshkov bangs his fist on a desk. Over at the White House, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman has some explaining to do.

Reagan: “Stand a little further away from me, John. And for God’s sake, fix your tie!”

2 thoughts on “Sixth Fleet – ASW in the Med.”

  1. Great AAR, read like the news would have reported it! This is a great multi-player game, btw. Most fun with separate Air and Naval commanders.

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