Thursday, July 24, 2014
Carpet to Em
Supplies were strewn all about as the hasty placement of fuel drums, bombs, spare parts and ammunition lay in the open fields in huge piles. It was also a staging area complete with train unloading facilities for the Stalin’s Fire SAM missile and hundreds were lying about or were just being off loaded from the trains that were coming in hourly. As soon as the US bombers were spotted on the radar the longer ranged bombers launched as fast as possible to be in position over the expected approach avenue to Baku.
Baku itself was like a porcupine bristling with SAM missiles and close to five hundred anti-aircraft guns of all ranges and stopping power. All oiled and waiting to receive the deadly shells that could mean death to many a bomber crew. The remaining oil production facilities that missed the first atomic bomb attack had been hardened as much as possible. There was still close to 25 square miles of oil production facilities and wells that the errant atomic bomb had missed and Baku was running at 30% efficiency still. It was also being repaired 24 hours a day despite the horrors of radiation.
Many of the interceptor squadrons were fairly close to Baku because of their short ranges. The jet fighters in particular were grouped around the area outside of the nuclear radiation zone of course. Many were based to the southwest to intercept bombers on the ingress and to the northwest to intercept them after they left the flak and missile killing zone planned for them.
Ground spotters picked up the massive raid coming from the south before the radar did. The communication lines and radios were heating up with every minute. Counts of the bomber stream and circling jet fighters came pouring in. Many were wild guesses but some were pretty accurate. There was no way to hide this massive moving carpet in the sky droning on towards Baku.
The area around Baku was as ready as it ever will be. More jet fighters would have been nice but their shortage was not critical. The older liquid fuel Stalin’s Fire missiles started to be fueled and the solid fuel models got ready for launch as well. By now all the malcontents among the Chechen women had been weeded out. They were now a compliant bunch and ready to do their Soviet masters bidding. There formidable skills were crucial in the initial stages of launch. The first few minutes of wire guided flight set the missiles up for success if place at the best angle for the internal missile guidance system to take over and hone in on the lead bombers.
They always went for the lead bombers for two reasons. One was to cripple the leadership of the raid; this had worked brilliantly in the first big raid attempted on Leningrad, and the other was to disrupt the formations and to possibly destroy the moral of the following crews. Crews who could find themselves thrown into the position of prime target by becoming the lead bombers by attrition. It would certainly be unnerving to see your leaders picked off one by one and then you become the object of attention for a guided missile coming unerringly towards your bomber. There would be nothing you could do but pray.
The formation that created and made carpet bombing effective would also increase the havoc of an exploding SAM missile with a warhead of a quarter ton of high explosives. These warhead have already demonstrate the ability to take down as many as 4 bombers with each explosion in other attacks. I would not be too hard to predict that any number of bombers would start to distance themselves from the lead bombers no matter how brave the crews.
Carpet bombing had only been tried on a helpless and prostrate opponent. The Soviets were far from helpless as has been amply demonstrated. The possible addition of proximity fuses of American make, in the warheads of the Stalin’s Fire missiles was also a major concern. Jammers had been placed in bombers spread throughout the formations, but who knew what counter measures the Soviets and their pet German scientists had cooked up for this defense in depth of their last remaining major oil field and production facility.
Each of the bomber formation knew who the bombers were that had the jammers aboard and were sure to try and get as close to this unit as possible. No one had any true idea of the range of the jammer or if it would even work. The VVS had made it work over Great Britain but once again the US was playing catchup. Do you show élan and strength and just bore in, or do you test the waters first. With LeMay in charge, you bore right in. Damn the missiles full speed ahead, as it were.
And it looked like that was exactly what was going to happen. The formations of bombers headed straight for the untouched streets and oil production facilities of Baku. The missile crews checked and re-check their equipment and the short range jets started to launch as the B-29s and P80 jet fighters closed in, climbing in breath taking speed compared to their propeller driven ancestors. This was sure to be an epic battle fought on the enemies turf by SAC against the best the VVS had to offer. Novikov had done an outstanding job of putting a hasty defense together and LeMay had done the same with his attack.
At about 125 miles out from Baku the bomber stream took a 45 degree turn to the Northwest. They were now headed almost due north in a classic dogleg to the left. It took over 15 minutes before someone figured out what was going on and rushed in to inform the Stavka and more importantly Novikov. Normally he would have left the tactics to his staff but this was too important to leave to others. In that 15 minutes the lead planes traveled 55 miles closer to the target. Those 55 miles meant that the short range He 162 Stalin’s Dart jet interceptor was out of position. That 55 miles meant that the vast majority of the Stalin’s Fire SAMs would not be in position as well for optimal interception and if the course of the bombers held, they would not be in range. The conventional Yak 9s, Yak 3s and the La 7s along with the Pe 9 and Tu2S bats armed with the X4 missile could make the adjustment but hundreds of AA guns could not. But of course, neither would the remaining oil fields of Baku which would remain untouched this day.
Within a minute of being told about the course change Novikov knew what LeMay was up to. He was after the massive air fields newly built near Barda and Yeviakh. More importantly the real target was the supplies and grounds crews there. LeMay was doing the same thing to him that he had done to the British. Everyone was so confident that LeMay would go for the jugular, that no thought of what a truly tempting target the supply depots were had been broached in any meeting or briefing. As the Brits gave no thought to their bone yards so the VVS brain trust gave no thoughts to their true weakness. The months of supplies uprooted from the English Channel area and hastily move to undefended depots easily observed from the air.
All that could reach though the steady stream of orders he boomed out was the thought of what Stalin would do when he found out, and how he could blame this on Beria. Novikov knew what was coming. He had seen the aftermath of a carpet bombing mission in Toulouse. Nothing of value would be left for miles around each of his depots and no appreciable amount of supplies would survive. More importantly his valued ground crews and mechanics would be blown to bits. He immediately ordered an evacuation of the two air complexes as his first priority. There was nothing he could do about the supplies. They would be gone in a matter of minutes in billowing columns of smoke and monstrous explosions.
He ordered his men to use the fastest evacuation route available leading away from the areas that were sure to be devastated in a matter of 15 minutes of less. Luckily the areas that could effectively be carpet bombed were fairly small in square kilometers so that 15 minutes should get most away from the kill zone. Now if he were LeMay he would send his fighters to track down any surviving personnel, so he further ordered that the ground crews to disperse after they traveled 15 km from the presumed target area.
Victor whispered in his ear that they should move all fighters capable of mounting a threat to the area over the evacuation sites to defend the troops from strafing P-80 Shooting Stars. Even a Yak 9 if flown properly had a chance of catching a jet going low and slow searching for human targets. If nothing else they would provide a distraction to the much faster US jet fighters and prevent them from doing their murderous business. It would do no good to move the shorter legged Soviet jets to the area. He suggested it was best to keep them over Baku as CAP just in case. Novikov was a master at knowing a good idea when he heard one and then rewarding those who suggested them.
And so the orders were given and now all he could do was to wait. Wait to see his fate. Wait to hear if all he lost was a few weeks of supplies and spare parts or if he would lose the years of experience and knowledge stored in the fragile craniums of his men. Had he lost the incredible advantage that Beria had provided to him with the foreknowledge of what the enemy was planning? Did he finally have to truly match wits with the man who destroyed Japan from the air? So far he was losing and losing badly. Stalin would not let that continue for long he was sure.
ENOUGH! He thought to himself. Get off your ass and save those men! Plenty of time to face the grim prospects of being tortured or making the choice to use his fancy pistol on himself. He really did care for the ground crews and mechanics more than the arrogant pilots.
“Tell Klokov to move the Pe-9s Southwest at all speed. They may be able to catch some Amerikosi cripples. Have the MiG 9s with the drop tanks cover them. If nothing else maybe we can draw some blood and gain some experience against the Amerikosi jets. Have him use the AR 234 as well to draw off some more fighters. Send some Yak 9DDs to see if they can pinpoint the bases for the fighters. I suspect they have to be based in Turkey and the Red Army will have to attend to that.”
Now to prepare my personal defense, he thought. Will the attacks come from Beria or directly from the Kremlin at the behest of Stalin? Beria has as much to lose as I do if it is fully discovered what really happened so I believe it is going to come from Stalin...if anyone.