Another Missing World War III Tale

There’s another type of story that seemingly just doesn’t appear in the conventional World War III niche (as far as I can tell): Stories centered around those with neither political or military capability. And by that I don’t mean the opponents in later Tom Clancy novels. The poor innocents caught up in the heat of war are often used in historical wartime fiction, but seem at best only in parts of conventional Fuldapocalypses (ie, Bannon’s wife in Team Yankee).

I think the biggest reason is well, no real incentive to do so. I don’t really have the best knowledge, but I can speculate that historical fiction writers don’t need to use an inherently contrived “Cold War hot but not that hot” setup to tell such a story. There’s plenty of historical conflicts that readers will understand better, and if a fictional one is needed/wanted, making it small, contemporary, or both can offer more of a hook.

So it’s a catch-22. The subgenre would benefit immensely from outsiders bringing their perspective. But most outsiders, even cheap thriller writers, don’t have much motive to write such a thing.

The Green Mess

In the 1905 World Series, Giants utilityman Sammy Strang had one plate appearance where he struck out. This entitled him to his complete share of the gate, the equivalent of around $33,000 today. Over a century later, another sportsman would only appear briefly yet cause a great amount of money to shift hands.

On January 9, 2022, in an otherwise undistinguished game between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, an injured Draymond Green made a ceremonial appearance at tipoff to be able to “start” with returning Klay Thompson before immediately fouling an opposing player and leaving. The result was that those who bet the under on his player props triumphed. However, this was not an issue of just him getting hurt quickly. His plan was announced shortly before the game, creating a window for people for hammer said unders.

It was an example of what Jason “Spreadapedia” Weingarten rightfully summed up as “One word: Greed”. And it demonstrates what I consider the odiousness at both sides of the sports betting industry. A big reason for the outsized losses is the presence of the “Single-game parlay”, where you can make parlay/accumulator bets (ie, you get a bigger payout, but they all have to win), on different elements of one game. Parlays are notoriously more profitable for the books overall, which is why they push them. However, the nightmare scenario is that all those blockbuster parlays (usually strings of giant favorites) actually hit. So yes, the books were playing with fire, and got burned.

However, I also have surprisingly little sympathy for the people who tried to take advantage of the error and got restricted for it. One of the secrets that a lot of casual observers don’t know are that many, if not most pro bettors (Protip: DO NOT BE A PRO SPORTS BETTOR) are people who pounce on slow/off/etc… lines instead of being super-handicappers. It’s why their complaints about being constantly restricted have fallen on deaf ears to me. And for something so obvious, I’m extra-uncaring about their “plight”.

Fatadin Mukhamedov

In one of those weird footnotes of aviation history, Mukhamedov, like Stavatti in the west, has been a maker of so-called “paper planes”. The company owes its existence to Fatadin Mukhamedov, a Soviet/Tajik engineer who had a successful career with the big bureaus (for instance, the Dushanbe center of Mikoyan) before striking out on his own. No actual aircraft were produced by the Mukhamedov bureau before Fatadin’s death in 2013, but the bulk had one specific shape.

Mukhamedov designed everything from fifth-generation fighters to gargantuan transports with the same distinctive circular inner wing. The most practical and achievable design was an advanced jet trainer/light strike aircraft for the competition eventually won by the Yak-130. Not coincidentally, the design may have found its way to Iran as the would-be HESA Shafaq. All of the other circular planes were just interesting and distinctive dreams.

But, in other timelines, dreams can come true….

Soviet-Romanian War: Background

I’ve talked before about a Soviet-Romanian War that’s a kind of “Soviet Gulf War“. There have been many obstacles to me actually writing such a thing, ranging from “what do I do with it” to “it’s a little eerie seeing Russia’s OTL buildup and interventions, including currently off Ukraine…”. But I figure I might as well get the rivet-counting parts of it down now while they’re fresh in my mind.

The Setting

It is the year 199X. The USSR is still intact. The reason isn’t because, as in Northern Fury, the August Coup succeeded. Here, it never happened, and the result is a “Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics” ( Союз Советских Суверенных Республик ), which allows for the continued use of the “USSR”, “Soviet Union”, and “CCCP” abreviations. The resulting semi-decommunized USSR has varying degrees of freedom and business openness, and is best symbolized by a flag: Still red, but with the hammer and sickle replaced with a light green vertical stripe on the left and a darker blue one on the right (to symbolize Central Asia and the Western Slavic republics).

Its economy has also been better improved from the historical collapse, but it retains its gigantic spending on the military. Having a bigger pie and more access to the Asian tech industry helps a lot. The result is that one of my favorite OPFOR models, the “Mobile Forces“, can finally be put into practice.

Meanwhile, to its west, the renegade Romania has clung on. But the time has finally come to eliminate it…

(Yes, I haven’t thought of the casus belli yet. Oh well.)

The Combatants

The USSR is able to deploy the Dniester and Danube Fronts. The Dniester Front is to the north and is composed mainly of national-level deployment forces and local ones in the Ukrainian and Moldovan military areas. The Danube Front stages out of Bulgaria (the most docile Warsaw Pact ally), and consists mainly of Bulgarian units with a smattering of Soviet ones, often in support roles. The only other foreign ally participating in a major role is a by-now-fairly-stabilized Afghanistan, contributing a motor rifle division and various mountain/commando units to the Dniester Front.

Investment has paid off, as the new pride and joy of the Red Army, its “mobile corps” are ready and set to participate in the invasion. A new generation of equipment has entered service. Many of the local participants are less well-equipped (in Bulgaria’s case, sometimes severely less so). The force contains thousands of tanks, artillery pieces, and aircraft, many of them new.

Opposing it is a force long considered the bottom of the Warsaw Pact barrel. Romania has had time to introduce some external and indigenous weapons systems. It has also semi-openly planned for a conventional delaying action followed by irregular resistance since the Ceausescu/Soviet split. But it remains hopelessly outclassed.

The Plan

The Dniester Front will do the bulk of the heavy lifting, sweeping through Romania. The Danube Front’s main goal is to cut off Bucharest and the Yugoslav border to head off reinforcement or escape in that direction. The biggest airborne and special operations since World War II will be conducted to aid the advance, secure the western side of the Carpathian Mountains, and interfere with the Yugoslav crossing.

Romania’s plan is to simply hold off long enough to set up a guerilla oppositions. In addition to all their other problems, an insistence on holding down the more Hungarian northwest, if only with security troops, lingers. (Hungary proper cares little for either side and has almost no intervention ability).

The Outcome and the Story

Ah, now that’s what I want to write about. I have many vignettes in my mind as of now but less of a coherent narrative. Still, I think I’ll have fun trying.

The Camouflage Sweepstakes

For some time after the fall of the USSR, the independent Russian military was known for its huge array of often-mismatched camo patterns. Even after the “digi-flora” standardization, this remains true to a degree (as in other armies-look at the classic “Woodland vest over desert camo” look in the Iraq War.)

For the camo sweepstakes of a surviving Red Army, I see a few options.

  • VSR-93. This pattern historically was in development when the USSR collapsed. There’s no reason why an intact, better-funded USSR wouldn’t be able to standardize.
  • TTSKO. This was an existing camouflage pattern widely continued by ex-Soviet republics.
  • For a more fanciful idea, a type of early digital camo could be adopted. As it stands, one was adopted by an ex-SSR, with Latvia’s “LATPAT” camo. Although not to the degree of the American Dual-Tex, the “pixels” are still significantly bigger than most other digital patterns.
  • Something else. Even in Russia itself, the Interior Troops adopted many patterns that could easily be used for the regular army.
  • Simple legacy pattern uniforms.
  • A combination. The GENFORCE-Mobile concept gives me the idea of the Mobile Corps and Airborne Forces having “fancier” uniforms.

World War 199X

The Zapad-99 exercise, the first massive maneuver conducted since the fall of the USSR, shows some interesting insight into the conduct of a World War III in the 1990s instead of the classic 1980s. The conduct of the exercise went essentially like this:

  • The OPFOR, or “Hypothetical Enemy”, as is the official Russian term for such things, launched a giant campaign in the Baltic/Belarusian region, overwhelming the overmatched CIS troops with air and missile power.
  • Kaliningrad was overrun by the Blueeaglelanders.
  • In the most famous and controversial part of the exercise, a limited nuclear “escalation by deescalation” after the fall of the exclave was conducted in which bombers attacked several important targets with cruise missiles. Two Tu-95s and two Tu-160s were successfully launched, and the missiles on those are enough to cause monstrous damage. (that’s 36 AS-15s with 200kt warheads. Ouch.)
  • Said targets are likely to be NATO bases in Europe and American bomber and logistics bases in the continental US.

To a degree, this era has already been explored, however imperfectly, in Arc Light and Red Hammer 1994. Northern Fury takes place in the 1990s but assumes a stronger, intact USSR and conventional weapons (at least for now…)

The Artillery Growth Spurt

I was looking through my old planning documents and noticed something very interesting. In a 1969 piece on conventional-only operations that was one of the first of its kind, the Soviet planners estimated their artillery could inflict a maximum of 20% enemy losses in the opening fire strike.

By 1974, just five years later, when their conventional balance was arguably at its height, it had grown to the more familiar OPFOR ratio of 30-40% in a similar document.

I’m thinking (pure idle speculation), various combinations of bigger guns, more mobile guns, more accurate guns, better shells (cluster warheads that make conventional SSMs more than just a nuisance are mentioned in the same document), and probably stuff I missed.

What I find extra-fascinating is that the Azeri’s Nagorno-Karabakh opening half-hour mega-strike apparently destroyed 40% of the Armenian artillery-which is in line with the previous estimates, especially if you take into account technical superiority and massive, massive advancements in smart weapons. (Also, though, for all that, the war still lasted a month and a half and claimed around Azeri 3,000 KIA by its own admission.)

Cats

I must admit I’ve always been more of a cat person. Me and my family have only had one dog in my life but have had no fewer than eight cats. The stereotype is that dogs are lovable companions, while cats are amoral parasites who have a purely transactional relationship with their human serfs.

This stereotype is often wrong, as I remember one of my cats with a full food bowl literally trying to rip her way through my bedroom door to be with me. I eventually let her in, don’t worry. Still, cats will make it very clear if their wants are not met.

The Pom-Pom turned Bazooka

Having gotten the chance to read a lot of late-WWI and early interwar doctrine pieces, one thing struck me in particular. Not the focus on trench lines or the different communications with no radios, but the presence of “1 pounder guns” like this.

The 1-pounder was described as being meant to hit targets like machine gun nests and armored vehicles. It was almost always intended to be used for direct fire. In other words, it filled the same niche that far less clunky recoilless and rocket launchers did in World War II and beyond. I found that interesting.

(And, of course, the widespread use of light AA guns for ground attack means even the original concept hasn’t gone away. That the pom-pom was also one of the first effective AAA pieces means the connection is even greater).