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Red Storm Rising

The commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army was confident, he had 5 divisions under his command facing 3 Danish Brigades and the Dutch Corps. Late intelligence had identified that the West German 6th Panzer-Grenadier Division had been added to the Dutch order of battle, and even this late news did no dampen his spirits.

His task was simple, break the NATO lines and capture Kiel and Hamburg. Once these objectives were met, he would move to occupy Denmark, and advance to the Elbe River.

The occupation of Denmark would allow the Soviet Air Force new airbases from which they could influence the naval battle of the Atlantic, and hopefully prevent NATO men and material from reaching the battlefield in Europe.

Spearheading the assault would be the 16th Guards tank division, equipped with T72 main battle tanks. He had reinforced this unit with an extra battalion of T72's, and artillery. It was his most potent unit.

To the south, he linked with the 20th Guards Army who were going to push toward, and capture Hannover. They faced the formidable British I Corps and the West German III corps.

The one key area to the initial assault was the airforce. It needed to secure air superiority to allow the ground attack aircraft to influence the land battle across the front.

The commander took his binoculars out of their case and scanned the horizon, it would begin soon.

The counter that represents the 16th Guards. Note the markers for the additional tanks and artillery support. This takes the already impressive attack factor of 5 to a mighty 7 in any attack. With added operational support, it would make a very formidable assault on any position, let alone some Danish Brigades.

Above him, two squadrons of highly classified aircraft raced toward the Soviet Mainstay AWAC's aircraft. They were undetected by the Warsaw Pact fighters. This was part of Operation Dreamland, a pre-emotive attack to weaken the command aircraft on the northern and southern sectors of the Soviet airforces over the battlefield. These aircraft were colloquially known as 'Frisbees', or F19's to the senior USAAF brass.

The northern mission was a success, the southern failed, but suddenly, at the beginning of the air battle, the Soviet forces had lost fifty percent of their AWACS coverage. In effect, blind in one eye over the northern sector.

The token for the F19 ' Frisbee ' stealth fighter - this is a fictional aircraft mentioned in the Tom Clancy book called Red Storm Rising.

Two days prior to the attack, the East German Government had raised serious concerns about the plans for the attack to include the use of battlefield chemical weapons. In fact, they were so concerned about the implications for Germany, as a whole, they threatened to withdraw their participation in the coming battle. This would entail the Warsaw Pact forces being denied, immediately five divisions, and any subsequent reinforcements from the East Germans.

The last thing the Soviet leadership need was needless infighting at this late stage, and an excuse for other Pact members to withdraw from the engagement.

The politburo gave into the demands, and the use of chemical weapons was prohibited to the front commander.

The first week of the battle for the air was vicious and intensive. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact wanted to gain air superiority.  The USAAF, although had suffered losses, had faired better than the air groups in the northern sector. The British alone had lost two squadrons of F4 phantoms, along with a two each of Dutch and Belgian F 16's. Roughly six squadrons were decimated above the NORTHAG air sector.

It was just as costly for the Soviet Air Force, 8 squadrons worth of SU27's and the vaunted MIG 29's went down in flames. Despite all the heroism and bravery of the pilots, neither side could claim air superiority, and this had a significant impact on the ground attack squadrons.

The Warsaw Pact ground forces smashed into the NATO lines in the first week, momentum was slow, but initial gains were made in both the 2nd Guards Tank Army area of operations and the assault against the U.S. VII corps in the CENTAG area.

Two Danish, infantry Brigades, the 1st and 2nd effectively ceased as fighting units in their effort to prevent the capture of Keil. Meanwhile the 90th Guards tank division smashed through the Dutch Corps and reached Hamburg, capturing the city and forcing the Dutch corps back toward the Elbe.

Meanwhile in a daring operation, and despite the ongoing battle for air supremacy, the Northern Front parachute regiment landed and took Kiel.

It was little better for NATO in the U.S VII corps area. The Soviet assault intersected with the boundary of US V corps and in the resulting confusion, both the 2nd and 11th Armoured Brigades were destroyed. VII corps was pushed back toward the Danube and a dangerous gap appeared between the two U.S. Corps which was exploited during a breakthrough by the 9th Tank Divison of the 1st Guards Tank army.

In the centre ground, the Soviet forces found themselves up against the stiff resistance of West German units.

A concerted effort by NATO Ground attack aircraft effectively neutralised the Soviet Paras in Kiel, and the city was recaptured by the 3rd Danish Brigade, which looked dangerously isolated as the NORTHAG units were pushed back over the Elbe.

Meanwhile, the British 3rd and 4th armoured divisions were forced to fall back after a concerted Soviet  assault, they did enough to cover the move of the British 1st Armoured Division into Hannover.

During the battle along the Elbe the Belgian 1st Infantry Division was reduced to a handful of men and disintegrated. 

Further bad news followed, the Warsaw Pact had destroyed the U.S. 1st Armoured Division and had crossed the Danube, driving for Munich, NATO scampered to protect the city, aided by the timely arrive of the French II and III corps.

Overhead in the skies, the U.S. Airforce losses were the equivalent of four squadrons, a mixed bag of F15's and F16's.

The Soviets were not having it all their own way though. The 3rd armoured regiment ceased to exist after an assault to open the way to Kassel, and the equivalent of six MIG 23 squadrons were downed during the ongoing battle for air superiority.

The war moved into it's third week, and the Soviets had only stockpiled enough  ammunition, fuel and supply's for a four week campaign. The 2nd Guards Regt retook Kiel from the Danish troops who stood to the last man. Denmark was subsequently occupied by Warsaw Pact forces.

The 2nd Guards Tank Army had met its initial objectives, and paused on the eastern side of the Elbe, the Dutch corps was still intact and anchoring its defence on the city of Bremen. The British still held Hannover, and VII corps had rallied, with the assistance of the French, to form a defensive line at Munich. 

Little ground had been made by the 8th Guards Army against the two West German corps in the centre.

In the air, NATO lost another 30 F16's, to the Warsaw Pact 60 or so MIG23's. The air superiority still contested and having a significant impact on both sides ground attack, and interdiction sorties.

It was at the end of the third week, and with the knowledge that they had failed in their attempts to bring NATO to its knees, a coup began in Moscow.............

The final positions in the North

The final positions in the south.

I enjoyed the game, it is simple and elegant and feels 'right'. I think both of the players learned some valuable lessons which will no doubt be put into place the next time we play.

An after action report of a game of Red Storm Rising, published by TSR in 1989.


  1. When I used to play this much seemed to hinge on the air battle. Generally, the odds seemed to favour NATO, particularly if those early strikes against the Soviet AWACS go in successfully. I've not played it yet with Red October, although this article may well inspire me to do so.

  2. I think we will have some house rules which will turn the F19's into F117a's. I think linking the two games will really add to the flavour, particularly if you have at least four players....


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