Soviet Ekranoplans in Naval Command

During the 1960s Soviet ship designers such as Rostislav Alexeyev began work on a number of military ground-effect vehicles (GEV). These vehicles resembling a cross between a ship and a jet aeroplane were designed to attain sustained high-speed  flight over a level surface (usually over the sea) by making use of ground effect, the aerodynamic interaction between the wings of the craft and the surface.

When first spotted by US aerial spy photography these strange vehicles caused widespread confusion and fear throughout the intelligence services. One Ekranoplan with the markings “KM” visible on the aerial photographs was even nicknamed the “Kaspian Monster”

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An artists impression of the “Caspian Sea Monster”

These can be used in the game of Naval Command to create hypothetical scenarios in which NATO forces encounter these strange and highly classified vehicles.

In the game, for the purposes of combat these are treated as maritime patrol aircraft and can be targeted with anti-aircraft weapons. For detection however they are classed as surface ships although a -1 modifier is applied to all detection rolls, this is to represent the confusion that this type of vessel would cause to RADAR operators as it would show on their screens as a surface target but will be moving at too fast a speed.

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The dilapidated remains of a Bartini Beriev VVA-14 Ekranoplan

The following are game characteristics for a selection of Soviet Ekranoplans. Note that some of the weapon loads are hypothetical as most of these vehicles ever entered active service.

ekranoplans

 

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MD-160, the sole completed Lun-class ekranoplan

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Battle of the North Cape AAR

Tonight we played a game of Battleship command, recreating the battle of the North Cape, the final battle of the Scharnhorst.

Schlachtschiff "Scharnhorst"

The fleets were as follows:

Royal Navy

Cruiser squadron

  • Belfast
  • Sheffield
  • Norfolk

Battleship squadron

  • Duke of York
  • Jamaica

Kriegsmarine

Battlecrusier  squadron

  • Scharnhorst

Destroyer squadron

  • Z-25
  • Z-26

The Battle

Scharnhorst set a southerly course while the British Cruises gave chase. Meanwhile the German destroyers broke off to the east, coming round to a northerly course with the intention of attacking the cruisers. To the south the Duke of York and Jamaica set an intercept course towards Scharnhorst.

After a few turns of manoeuvre and a few ranging shots, two of the cruisers broke off their chase to engage the German destroyers, leaving Norfolk to pursue the Scharnhorst. The cruisers engaged in a brief but violent action that resulted in both destroyers being sunk.

Around the same time Duke of York came into sight of the Scharnhorst and both ships opened fire, both scoring numerous hits.

Norfolk then arrived and opened fire on the German ship, now taking fire from two sides. Norfolk and Jamaica closed their range and both launched torpedoes.

Two torpedoes hit, breaching Scharnhorst hull causing flooding. Duke of York then moved into close range and fired a devastating salvo, scoring 7 penetrating hits, sending Scharnhorst to the bottom.

Overall another fun game, even if Scharnhorst was doomed from the start. The British benefitted from passing more command rolls, allowing them to bring their ships to the optimum positions. Meanwhile Scharnhorst failed a number of critical command checks, so was unable to carry out alterations of course big enough to avoid the enemy gunfire. This demonstrated how important command ratings for the ships are in Battleship Command. If checks are failed and ships begin to lose situational awareness things can quickly go wrong with devastating consequences.

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Battleship Command Now Available!

My new Second World War naval wargame rules are now available from WargameVault!

The rules are intended to be fast to play allowing an action to be fought to a conclusion within a few hours of play.

Battleship Command also includes a new command and control system where the quality of the officers under your command can have a major impact on the game.

The rulebook includes all the rules needed to play, generic and historical scenarios as well as ship and aircraft data for the British Royal Navy, the Kreigsmarine, French Navy, Regia Marina, US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Battleship Command on the WargameVault

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Battleship Command AAR – The Battle of the Denmark Strait

Historical Overview

The German Battleship Bismarck and Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen had set sail from Germany and were expected to sail westward and break through into the North Atlantic via the Greenland, Iceland and UK gap.

On the evening of the 23rd of May 1941, despite the poor weather conditions , the two ships were spotted by the British Heavy Cruisers HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk heading for the Denmark Strait (Between Greenland and Iceland). Throughout the night the cruisers shadowed the German ships, reporting their positions to the rest of the British fleet.

The next morning (24th May) a force of eight British ships was waiting to intercept the Germans in the Denmark Strait. The British fleet included the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, the Battlecruiser HMS Hood and 6 destroyers. Prior to the battle the destroyers were detached to the south.

This game fought the action between the capital ships.

The Fleets

Kriegsmarine

  • KMS Bismarck – Günther Lütjens, Ernst Lindemann
  • KMS Prinz Eugen -Helmuth Brinkman

Royal Navy

  • HMS Hood – Lancelot Holland
  • HMS Prince of Wales –John Leach

The Battle

Both battlegroups began on gradually converging courses, just out of visual range. By the second turn both fleets had spotted each other and began to fire their opening salvos. At this extreme range the fire was largely ineffective. There was one tense moment when a shell from Bismarck hit Hoods deck but luckily for the British a 1 was rolled for armour penetration meaning that no damage was caused.

Prinz Eugen then made a bold turn to port and attempted to rapidly close its range with the British ships. while Bismarck continued on a steady course and continued firing its guns.

Once it was closer to the British ship the Prinz Eugen fired a spread of torpedoes and opened up with its 8″ guns. Bothe the torpedoes and its gunfire were largely ineffective against the heavier British ships who managed to score a critical hit damaging Prinz Eugens steering gear. Un able to maneuver and taking heavy damage the Prinz Eugen continued on its course and withdrew from the battle.

This allowed both the Hood and the Prince of Wales to focus their efforts on the Bismarck, closing the range and firing multiple salvos zeroing in on their target. eventually the weight of the British firepower was too much for the German battleship and the Bismarck was sent to the bottom leaving the heavily damaged British ships to limp back to base.

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A rough plot of the battle

Post Game Thoughts

As a playtest game for my new Battleship Command rules this game went very well. The Gunnery rules provided the desired outcomes and the command and control dice rolls made for some tense and exciting moments.

Both fleets were lucky in that the number of critical hits scored were relatively low (down to poor dice rolling) and the British had the advantage of the fact that we forgot to use the scenario special rules concerning Prince of Wales having maintenance issues with its gunnery as it was a brand new ship and still had contractors onboard at the time of the battle.

A big thanks to Ivan (of the Williton gamers) for being my opponent for this game.

Unfortunately I was too focused on the game to take many good photos.

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Prinz Eugen fires its torpedoes while under fire from Prince of Wales and Hood

 

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One of the last photographs of the Bismarck before she was sunk.