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World War III scenario...please comment

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I'm looking for feedback on a general "outline" for an alternate history World War III I could use to develop scenarios...


November 1, 1983. After the Falklands War, having studied British tactics, American assistance, and the economic effects on the West of fighting a war, the Soviets decide to seize control of Western Europe. Their main approach is threefold: destroy as many NATO bases as possible with lightning strikes, sink as many NATO ships as possible with submarines, and conduct a massive land invasion of Germany and France. Once Germany and France are secure, and the Soviets have control of their ports, the rest of Europe can be negotiated with.


November 30, 1983. Results at Day 30 are something of a stalemate. On the land, the Soviets crushed NATO so completely that they did not even need to use chemical weapons, except some isolated cases, and when it came to the "treat-chemical-weapons-as-nukes" stare-down, NATO blinked; they did not respond with tactical nukes. Germany and France are under Soviet control. On the sea, NATO comes out ahead; both sides take terrible losses, but in the end, the Soviets are not able to kill enough NATO warships and merchants to deny the sea lanes to the West. In the air, the Soviets have a Pyrrhic victory of sorts; they destroy most of the air bases in the West (including the ones in Germany and France) but lose most of their bombers and a lot of their fighters doing it. Technically, they have air superiority; in reality, neither side can conduct much of an air war right now.


Israel has defended itself quite well against numerous Egyptian, Syrian, etc. air attacks, but is at the point where all it can really do is defend its borders.


England, Norway, and southern Europe are all "free" but lack the ability to do much beyond feed themselves and keep basic services running. In short, it is a race against time...if the Soviets can rebuild their army and air force before America, etc. can bring enough planes, etc. to Europe to start fighting back, a series of new Soviet attacks will cement Soviet control over all of Europe.


December 7, 1983. President Reagen stuns the world by refusing to negotiate with the Soviets. Instead, he says, "This is the not the end. This is the beginning. The Soviets think they have won, but they have won nothing. And they have lost what may have been their most important weapon because they have turned doubt into certainty. We are at war and we are fighting for survival. There is no turning back. We know that now. And so we will fight. We still control the seas. We will take back the skies. We will take back Europe. And then we will free the Russian people from their Soviet masters. This is not the end. This is the beginning."


January 1, 1984. The long war begins...


So, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is "Mark, really, you must take your medication" and 10 is "Yes, this is how it would have happened!" how am I doing here? My main idea is that the Soviets win, sort of, but stall out before they can cement their control over the world (or even all of Europe) and the response of NATO is, "Ivan, it only counts as a win if you can keep it and we're not going to let you do that" and starts planning to take Europe back. So far, no one has used nukes, perhaps for the simple reason that neither side would use them FIRST, no matter what, and so no one used them. Is this possible? Plausible?


Comments, observations, suggestions?

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I am loath to suggest that anyone's storyline is implausible. Harpoon was designed for the hypothetical.


Many elements of a storyline aren't even necessary to push a scenario in one direction or another.


But a few comments meant to stir the creativity pot and invoke further commentary ...


1. So the war at sea failed to stop Reforger (or at least, the seaborne component) but the reinforcements weren't enough?


2. So France and Germany have been overrun and "secured" by the Soviets, but the 'nuclear option' (even on a so called tactical scale) was not exercised? As you know, France was (is) a nuclear power on a strategic level. It repeated the surrender of 1940 (and did not use its nuclear defense)? If so, I think it more likely that France would accept Soviet seizure of Germany as a whole and sue for peace before having its own territory fall, i.e. a political surrender.


3. Reagan was no fan of nuclear weapons but he appreciated their value as a strategic tool. Sort of like Indiana Jones and his Webley; he hated guns but would use the revolver if he had to. No one can guess if an American President would actually use strategic nuclear weapons to defend Europe, when put to the test in a crunch, but I'd say few would put their money on Reagan backing down. Maybe he would. We'll never know. If it works for your storyline, go for it.


4. As you know, doctrine (at least in the public sphere) called for the use of 'tactical' nukes against advancing Soviet forces rather than conventional defeat. Maybe the Germans would have never permitted their use, but would they accept falling under Soviet control instead? The same philosophical debates as #3 apply.


5. What has been the effect of civilian refugees and rebel/underground uprisings?


6. Did most or all of the Warsaw Pact members go along with the Soviet plan?


7. Did most or all of the NATO members join in the collective defense?


8. If the USA is pledging to continue to fight, what are they planning to fight with? Were a significant number of forces held back, stateside? Were they sent to Europe but didn't make it into the fight before France and Germany fell? Are they being drawn from forces stationed in other parts of the world (e.g. Korea)?


9. Huge economic impacts arising but perhaps outside the scope of your storyline, except insofar as they cause shock waves (or ripples) in back water theaters around the globe.

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My first thoughts after reading this:


Who is going to manage to get munitions through to Israel so that they can keep fighting? Their warstocks at day 30 are probably long gone.


China may not have had nearly the warfighting ability in 1983 that they have today but how are they playing into WWIII? With the Soviet Union engaged in a major Western war, is it China that paradoxically 'saves the day' for the West?


I happen to be re-reading Red Storm Rising and I like the dive into the Middle East aspect of it, will there be a Super Power grab for that area in your alternative history?

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Having served in the Navy during both Raegan terms, the storline is barely plausible (but as Brad has stated, this is Harpoon we're talking about and it is an engine for the hypothetical). I don't see President Raegan just sitting back and letting Germany (a major NATO ally at the time) be rolled-up like a cheap rug. If your using this storline as a script, you need to plan how the naval aspect of the storline reaches that conclusion.

Reforger was a triad strategy - Naval sealift capability (which in the 80's the Russian could have contened with by flowing the atlantic with submarines), an air bridge of heavylift transports (which I don't think the Soviets would be able to contend with) and the US forces on the ground in Germany and in Europe. Personally, I don't think they would say, "We quit." Unless the red push was on the scale of a blitzkreg (which the Russians weren't known for), I think your 30-day window would be more like 45-days. Sealift support may breakdown due to the naval campaign, but the air bridge would remain intact - -even with a negotiated French peace. Capacity would still enter the continent thru Spain and Italy and rushed to front.

Not to be critical, but the WWIII scenario aspect of Harpoon is becoming passe. Working in the industry I am more interested in how regional contests would playout, involving lesser known actors, with the US, Russia and the bigger fleets sprinkled in as a spice, not the entree of the meal.

On a 1 to 10 scale, I give this one about a 4.

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The Soviets not were afraid of first use nukes.

The Soviet plan habitually included a initial use of tactical nukes against NATO's air defence systems (i.e., a tactical nuke against EACH NATO's SAM site or airbase, a grand total of some 1000 nukes over Europe in the first few hours of WWIII!!!!). Also, a salvo of 1000 strategic missiles as first strike was in the Soviet plan ...


About tactical nuclear first strike on NATO airbases:


About tactical nuclear first strike on NATO SAM sites:



Some other sources and hints:


12:00 noon CDT 5 August 1988: Nuclear hostilities on a global scale begin as the U.S.S.R. launches a preemptive strike. Over 1,000 Soviet missiles--carrying 5,400 warheads--are launched as a counterforce strike against the U.S. and its NATO allies.

Current population figures are: Rio Grande Valley--690,000; Travis County--550,000; Texas--16,800,000; the United States--245,000,000; the world--5,150,000,000.

12:10 PM CDT: NATO missiles in Europe (U.S., British, and French weapons) are launched against Warsaw Pact targets. This includes U.S. Pershing II and Gryphon missiles, most of which were not yet retired under the INF treaty.


Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warheads begin reaching targets in Texas and other parts of the U.S. Over the next 15 minutes 55 SLBM warheads succeed in reaching targets in Texas out of 74 launched (the rest were on missiles that malfunctioned early in flight). In Travis County, a 1.5-megaton (1 mt equals the explosive energy of 1,000,000 tons of TNT) warhead detonates 2.5 km (1.5 miles) over Bergstrom AFB. Over the next few minutes ten warheads, each between 200 kilotons and 500 kilotons (1,000 kt equals 1 mt) detonate over Bergstrom and in a pattern extending 100 km (60 miles) to the north, west, and east--this in an attempt to destroy the four escaping bombers.

12:50 PM CDT: A massive barrage by U.S. SLBMs mostly overwhelms the Moscow ABM system; American, British, French, and Chinese nuclear warheads targeted within 100 km (60 miles) of Moscow total over 500. About 200 reach their targets (although only about 40 were lost to ABMs): while most Soviet leaders in underground shelters survive (the primary goal of the local ABM system), most civilians in the subway tunnels and other shelters will die over the next few hours.

The Moscow area ranks with the six ICBM fields in the U.S. as the hardest hit areas of the world. An average of 350 warheads detonate in each ICBM field, each producing a crater 350 m (400 yards) across; a total of 100,000 sq. km (40,000 sq. mi.) is devoid of life. Out of 1,000 ICBM silos, 100 still had ICBMs; now six are left usable.

The nuclear weapons that have reached Texas so far were directed against U.S. military forces and capabilities. Although this attack did not specifically target the civilian population, it has so far killed 800,000 and injured 3,000,000 people in Texas.

December 1988: Crop failures throughout the third world have caused famines in many areas and have also encouraged civil unrest. India has collapsed into civil war. Having devastated Israel, Arab nations are in chaos: the Middle East was heavily dependent on the Western nations economically. Surviving Taiwanese forces are participating in the civil war in mainland China.

Some third world countries, particularly Latin American countries, are launching raids on U.S. coastal areas by sea. These military task forces scavenge and steal what they can find, from raw materials and food to equipment for industrial, military, and agricultural use. Surviving industrial facilities on the coasts, particularly the Pacific and Gulf coasts, are targeted. A couple of raiding parties have visited the Port of Brownsville's former location and surrounding areas but found little of interest.




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Not to be critical, but the WWIII scenario aspect of Harpoon is becoming passe.


Now that part I just have to disagree with. :)


While the Cold War 'gone hot' may not be at the forefront of our minds these days when it comes to hypotheticals, its the staple food that Harpoon grew up on.


I'd be surprised if Harpoon players (a good proportion of which can also remember those days first hand :o ) would pass on a Harpoon scenario just because its based on the longstanding NATO vs Warsaw Pact hypothetical. I'd put money on the bet that the vast majority of us just love playing with the F-14, the Backfire, the Kirov battlecruiser, et al. :D


What matters above all is whether the scenario is fun to play, challenging, and/or entertaining.


If you can put a fresh twist on this 'old fashioned clash of the titans', that would be a welcome bonus.

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And very probably you will win ;)


Mark has a very useful tool at his disposal when working with H3ANW. He can limit the number of weapons/sorties available to the player. This makes defending with the F-14/Phoenix combo no longer a "sure thing". Whereas a HCE player has to play according to his own conscience or desire when using the same combo.

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That's one thing I REALLY like about this board. We can all have a civil discussion about a mutual interest and enjoyable passtime. I have to agree with your agruments. Maybe I was too hasty in saying the "Clash of the Titans" scenario is passee. I do enjoy them, myself and RSS is one of my favorite books. Although it would be interesting to game (I love a challenge), its a probable situation than others I've seen on this board and other venues.

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I roughed up some ideas that pushed the European invasion to 1987 (I'm assuming Chernobyl put a significant damper on any enthusiasm the Soviets might have had about using nukes and led to the decision to rely only on conventional weapons UNTIL nuclear weapons were used by NATO). The French idea makes sense--especially if it was part of a larger plan...what if NATO had made the decision that a TEMPORARY loss of Germany would be better than a near PERMANENT irradiation of Germany? What if the US had told Germany, "We liberated France. We will liberate you. Just stay alive. We are coming." Would West Germany, given a choice between surrender and the nuclear option, which at best would give them a free but ravaged country, accept defeat without playing the nuclear card? I'm also assuming that the loss of Germany is not any meek, mild surrender--NATO fights like crazy to keep the Soviets out and takes horrible losses but as a result pretty much exhausts their ability to do anything but occupy Germany. So, as 1988 dawns, the Soviets are in control of Germany, but are now surrounded by a very angry NATO that sees no reason to treat the Soviets as anything but hostile and which is rebuilding as fast as a war-oriented American economy can drive the process. The future is not looking bright for the Soviets...


Is this more plausible?

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November 1, 1985. The Soviet Union invades Iran with the goal of seizing its oil wells and Persian Gulf ports. A secondary long term plan is to build a pipeline from Iran to the Soviet Union, reducing the need to rely on tankers. The attack is a success, so much so that it is accomplished without the need for tactical nuclear weapons. India declares itself in alliance with the Soviet Union, as per its 1971 treaty of friendship and cooperation.


Taking back Iran from the Soviets will be difficult; they have invested a lot of men and hardware into cementing their control of the country.


Okay...how much more plausible is this one?


Also, what are the likely tactics? I imagine gaining air superiority and keeping sea lanes to Saudi Arabia and other friendly Arab countries would be essential. (I'm assuming the Sino-Pakistani alliance protests the invasion but stays out of the fight, at least at first.) And then airborne and amphibious invasions, followed by a lot of ground fighting supported from the air? Lots of air raids against SAMs, airfields, supply depots, etc. I'm guessing the Allies would consist mostly of the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Saudi Arabia, and...who else? Turkey? Israel? Japan? South Korea?


Just curious...in 1986, how much worse would the West have considered an Iran control by the Soviets, as compared to an Iran controlled by the Ayatollah?


Ideas, suggestions? Thanks.



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Scenario TWO is definitely something that makes you go, "Hmmmm." No that's an interesting twist to things. Well first off, this is right in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War. Iraq was being supplied mainly by Russia (along withsome help from France). Republican Guard forces would likely have linked up with Russian units at the border and continued south into Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia. The GCC would have been ill-equipped to stop them and they would soon fall (or surrender before they are creamed).

I foresee China (along with Pakistan) as being a tide turner for the west. China ties-up Russian PacFlt units as the US, friendly western powers and the Aussies begin formulating a strategy to retake the Gulf, using Diego Garcia as their staging area.

Likely Russia would encourage Egypt to close the Suez (either thru bribes or threats). That means relief would have to come around the Cape of Good Hope and thru the Strait of Malacca.

Mark, you have truly outdone yourself this time. I like this one! I give this one a 7 or 8, on a scale of 10 for the hypothetical reality scale. Bravo Zulu!

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Scenario TWO is definitely something that makes you go, "Hmmmm." No that's an interesting twist to things. Well first off, this is right in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War. Iraq was being supplied mainly by Russia (along withsome help from France). Republican Guard forces would likely have linked up with Russian units at the border and continued south into Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia. The GCC would have been ill-equipped to stop them and they would soon fall (or surrender before they are creamed).

I foresee China (along with Pakistan) as being a tide turner for the west. China ties-up Russian PacFlt units as the US, friendly western powers and the Aussies begin formulating a strategy to retake the Gulf, using Diego Garcia as their staging area.

Likely Russia would encourage Egypt to close the Suez (either thru bribes or threats). That means relief would have to come around the Cape of Good Hope and thru the Strait of Malacca.

Mark, you have truly outdone yourself this time. I like this one! I give this one a 7 or 8, on a scale of 10 for the hypothetical reality scale. Bravo Zulu!


Okay, then the next stage is to start considering the "chapters." These will be used to generate specific scenarios. Again, any feedback would be welcome...


Chapter 1. 1985. Opening Moves. The Soviet invasion, assisted by Iraq, which seizes control of Kuwait. Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco all side with the Soviets (and this gives them a chance to screw Western Europe). India sides with the Soviets as per their treaty.


* Shipping in the Mediterranean comes under heavy attack by North African nations trying to cripple the European war effort

* Europe raids North African ports and airfields to eliminate the threat from North Africa

* Mediterranean shipping comes under Soviet submarine attack

* Egypt and Syria attack Israel--NATO, especially Turkey, assists in the defense of Israel

* Soviet submarine forces go after Western shipping around the world

* Soviet convoys begin forming up to move troops, material, etc. to their new Iranian and Iraqi bases--NATO will try to destroy the ones coming from the West; Japan, US, and Australian forces will try to hit the ones from the East

* Pakistan sides with the US; Indian and Pakistani forces clash in the Indian ocean; China remains neutral...China will wait, and see...

* The Gulf is effectively closed; Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states negotiate a peace in return for not being attacked; Yemen is part of the Soviet bloc anyway

Chapter 2. 1986. The convoy wars. Soviet convoys heading to and from the Persian Gulf and NATO convoys heading to and from Diego Garcia must get past enemy submarines and SAGs. Meanwhile, America suffers somewhat and Europe and Japan suffer significantly because of oil shortages--American and North Sea Oil and strategic reserves ease the pain for now, but everyone knows it is only a short term solution. Convoys of tankers coming out of Nigeria and Venezuela also come under attack by Soviet forces. Meanwhile, the submarines themselves are under attack by ASW task forces, air units, etc. Soviet forces make raids against European facilities, particularly North Sea oil rigs, but these are just raids, not major assaults. The goal here is to harass and weaken the West, not seize territory. The Soviets know they do not have enough troops left after the Iranian adventure to do that. (Among other things, the Soviets are dealing with all kinds of Iranian AND Afghan uprisings...more fun than anyone should be allowed to have...)


Chapter 3. 1987. Open the Canal. Egypt comes under blistering attack by the West and is finally invaded and occupied. The Suez Canal is re-opened.

Chapter 4. 1987. The Air War. Numerous air battles take place as the West tries to gain air superiority and to destroy as many SAM, C3I, ports, bridges, factories, etc. in Iran and Iraq.


Chapter 5. 1987. I-Day. Several carrier and amphibious groups, along with many long range bomber attacks, and airborne assaults, conduct a series of coordinated attacks to take back the Gulf. Saudi Arabia has secretly signed a treaty to assist the West and does so, providing the West with essential support. Uprisings in Iran and Afghanistan, carefully promoted by the West, greatly hinder any Soviet resupply efforts by land. Slowly but surely, the West takes back the Gulf.


Aftermath. 1988. ???


How is this? Thoughts? Observations?


Questions. How are the following nations likely to respond...


South Korea

North Korea (will it use the war as an excuse to attack South Korea?)

Indonesia (probably a critical one...who do they help?)


Argentina (they hate the UK...will they help the Soviets? Do we get a second Falklands invasion because they figure the UK is too busy to do anything?)

Bangladesh (probably sides with India/Soviet Union?)

Other Latin American and Central American countries (I imagine there are communist uprisings in several...perhaps the 1990s will consist of a lot of Panama-type invasions?)



Other sub-Saharan African countries

Cuba (after harassing American shipping, the US uses the war as an excuse to invade? Certainly, you wouldn't want a Soviet base this close to Florida during a war...)



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I like this a lot! One "opening salvo" would be for the NA contingent to sieze Gibraltar from the UK. a precursor in the plot would be for terrorist bombing to wrack Spain and Portugal and NATO is vacilating as to a response. Strong socialist governments in France and Italy would also not choose to act and could effectively split the NATO alliance. Angola was very pro-Russia/Cuba at this time and having Argentina swing commie would also open the door for Russia and Cuba into LA and additionally stretch the UKs resources.

I hope you will do a version of these scenarios for HUCE. I look forward to fighting the AI.

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