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Assault on Alpha Hydri
Linked Sci-fi battle reports by Mike Proudlock

This is a two part battle report; the space-based action was a precursor to a ground action played out at a subsequent club meeting, with the results of the battle affecting the available ground forces and the support available to them.
 

Space Action

Following the abortive attack on DELTA PAVONIS, the CDSU High Command decided to take advantage of the lull in hostilities resulting from the AMREP reaction to the unprecedented appearance of the unknown aliens. The Chinese leaders refused to believe that there was an alien threat and determined to use the opportunity to seize a strategic advantage.

Chinese fleet

Brigadier General KONG PLA(N), commander of the 3rd Strike Fleet was tasked with leading the space-borne attack to clear the way for an assault landing by the 351st Assault Division commanded by Brigadier General SU-HEN. Assigned forces consisted of two carrier groups with their associated dreadnoughts and escorts, plus the assault carriers and logistics ships with their own escort force.

AMREP Defences

The AMREP base at ALPHA HYDRI, USS ROBERT E LEE, is located on a marginally habitable planet, and the only planet in the system. Native flora and fauna are primitive and will limit capabilities for self-support for own or enemy forces without advanced facilities. The base is intended to provide logistics support and limited repair and maintenance facilities only, typically standard life support consumables, and essential self-help engineering tasks with limited base engineering support. It has, however, been used by AMREP to launch attacks and raids into CDSU space. The Chinese plan was to capture the base as intact as possible so that it could be rapidly converted to their use as a forward base for deep thrusts into American space. As an outpost located significantly behind the front line, and in a sector that had been quiet for some time, the Chinese assessment was that the defences would be limited.

Death of the YUAN

The assessment was not far from the truth, although Admiral KING, commanding the AMREP outpost, had made improvements to the readiness of the limited forces he had. Detachments had reduced his mobile space forces to two cruiser squadrons and a system patrol flotilla, but the orbital battle station, USS SIRIUS, and subordinate asteroid platforms provided the bulk of his combat power, and these were as ready as he could make them.

The Chinese plan was to jump into close proximity to the planet and conduct a dual envelopment of the battlestation, forsaking the opportunity to deploy their significant fighter strength in hope of achieving surprise. The surviving senior officers later admitted they had failed to register the potential firepower of a battlestation, thinking of it more in terms of a normal forward repair station. A mistake that cost them dearly.

End of a heavy crusier squadron

Emerging from hyperspace the CDSU ships found very few AMREP ships in the vicinity, the only obvious group being the 31st Heavy Cruiser squadron patrolling near the station. They also noticed a number of ships docked to the station. One of the JINGZI dreadnoughts (PLA(N) YUAN) on the Chinese right flank had accidentally jumped in much closer to the planet than the rest of the fleet, and quickly found that the station had not been surprised as its shields were repeatedly penetrated by the American's X-Ray lasers, leaving it disabled and drifting.

On the other flank the Chinese tried to maintain range from the station while lining up the spinal mounts of their heavy LONGZI dreadnoughts on the station. Their manoeuvering, combined with that of the American squadron, resulted in the two groups of ships intermingling in a massive display of pyrotechnics as ship after ship exploded. With two dreadnoughts and several cruisers engaging just 2 cruisers and 2 destroyers and 2 frigates at point-blank range, the losses were mainly AMREP, although several CDSU lighter units also succumbed.

It was turning into a massacre

The SIRIUS engaged targets as they were available. The heavy firepower the station mounted dealt heavy damage on ship after ship, including the Chinese carriers that had drifted into range. Among other targets, she destroyed the WONSAN-Class PLA(N) YANHA. While only a frigate sized unit with minimal firepower, this was the Chinese reconnaissance ship that could have pinpointed the location of the ground bases, leaving the CDSU landing forces effectively blind.

The massacre continues

The Chinese found the heavy shielding and armour on the station made it virtually invulnerable to their return fire until they managed to attack with fighters and drones. Even then they only achieved limited damage during most of the engagement, although the continual barrage started to degrade the station's shields. Recognising the damage the carriers were taking to no benefit, the Chinese attempted to get out of range. One managed to escape, but the left flank carrier was gutted by X-Ray lasers at maximum range and exploded having only managed to launch 5 squadrons out of her wing of 14.

The attack closes in

The surviving carrier was, however, well paced as a result of this manoeuvre to engage two AMREP light cruisers (USS HALSEY and USS MOOSEHEAD) that jumped in to support the station. Lack of viable intelligence resulted in them arriving almost on top of the carrier and the surviving JINGZI dreadnought (PLA(N) TANG). Caught in a withering crossfire, the two cruisers barely a managed to get a shot away before they were reduced to scattered debris.

Pensive CDSU admiral

In close proximity to the battlestation Chinese and American fighters were engaged in a swirling dogfight. Although the first squadrons had taken heavy losses as they were launched, being outnumbered, as numbers built up, combined with short range fire from the SIRIUS, they gradually wore down the attackers, particularly when Chinese diverted a number of their squadrons to intercept the drones and battle satellites that were causing severe annoyance, and gradually accumulating damage, to their fleet.

The two LONGZI dreadnoughts on the left flank had now turned towards the station, and were ready to open fire with their spinal mounts. At this point the American planet-based defences, which had deliberately held back earlier, joined the battle. A massed drone strike was fired against the PLA(N) JIN. Her defensive fire was ineffective, and left 19 weapons to hit the ship.

Aftermath

Close quarters action

Time had now run out to complete the game, and based on relative losses, at this point the battle was looking like an AMREP victory. The Chinese landing force was about to arrive, but the main AMREP defences looked very much intact, and there were still the remnants of a light cruiser squadron, a destroyer flotilla and the system patrol ships in system and able to intervene. The ships docked with the USS SIRIUS were also in the final stages of recovering their crews and preparing to launch, having been stood-down on one-hours notice.


To evaluate what the impact of the space engagement would be on the ground battle, the next few turns were estimated after the event as follows:

  • The PLA(N) JIN was hit by the 19 drones, 10 of which penetrated her shields and did significant weapons and systems damage, although the ship's heavy armour protected her from more serious damage. However, the planetary installations followed this initial salvo with a second, equally massive one.
  • The JIN and her sister ship, the SONG engaged the USS SIRIUS with their spinal mounts, with both hitting. The weakened state of the SIRIUS' shields now became critical as both shots penetrated and, despite her armour absorbing a lot of the damage, she suffered heavy damage, mainly to her hull. The SIRIUS' return fire did considerable damage to the JIN, and lesser damage to the SONG.
  • A second spinal mount salvo from the two dreadnoughts were enough to finish the SIRIUS, which exploded, taking the docked AMREP ships and all the adjacent fighters from both sides with her. However, her last salvoes were effective enough to reduce the PLA(N) JIN to an expanding cloud of plasma.
  • With the battlestation eliminated, the landing ships were able to work their way into a relatively sheltered position to launch their landing force, although taking damage en route from the fixed defences. The landing force continued to suffer during the descent from fire from both the asteroid stations and the planetary installations. As a consequence, the attack force was scattered badly, and suffered significant losses before reaching the ground.
  • The remaining fleet units had all suffered damage to some extent, and were unwilling to press the engagement against the remaining orbital platforms and ground fire. The 3 XINGZI-class destroyers in the strike fleet, which, apart from the surviving PLA(N) TANG, carried all the drones available to the fleet, which are the only Chinese weapons able to strike planetary targets form space other than fighter, have also emptied their magazines or been destroyed, preventing the fleet providing any bombardment support to the landing.
  • The assault ship escort group had its own XINGZI destroyers, so was able to deliver some bombardment, but these ships were a priority target for the defenders, and without the targeting information that should have been available from the YANHA, they had to close dangerously near the planet to target their weapons, meaning that there was limited damage done to the defenders.

The losses suffered by both sides means that there will be no orbital bombardment support for either side in the ground engagement. Air support will similarly be limited as, while both sides have significant surviving fighter assets, these will tend to neutralise each other. The AMREP fixed air defences remain mostly intact, and these will also affect the air support capabilities under their umbrella.

 

Ground Action

ASSAULT ON ALPHA HYDRI - THE GROUND ACTION

Background

From the perspective of the CDSU command, the assault on ? HYDRI (or SHE SHUO YI as the Chinese know it) had turned into a bloody shambles. Their space forces had taken heavy losses failing to neutralise the AMREP space defences and, as a consequence, the landing forces were mauled as they made their landings, suffering severe casualties and being scattered over the planet, and their chain of command had been broken with the Divisional commander missing.

AMREP light tanks ambushed

The AMREP command was somewhat happier, but had to keep one eye on the CDSU Fleet still in the system, and launching occasional probes and fighter attacks on the remaining orbital platforms. The main defence capability, the battle station USS SIRIUS having been destroyed in the initial attack. On the ground, they needed to locate, identify and neutralise the landing forces. From air reconnaissance it was assessed that two brigades had landed, although the Rear Admiral commanding was sure that a division had been involved, and expected a further brigade to be located. What was certain that two landing sites were on the far is of the planet, and the base air-space wing was mainly tasked with attacks on these forces. The third identified landing zone was much more of an immediate concern as it was within 300km of the base, although recon had shown it was seriously dispersed, having suffered room both the space, air and base firepower on its way down, but had the bulk of a Guards Tank Regiment equipped with heavy HE LONG tanks.

2-AMREP air strike

Due to previous drawdowns on the garrison, AMREP could only put about a battalion-sized force into the field while leaving a minimum practicable defence force at the base instead of the regiment that should have been available. The commanders considered their options, deciding they could either try to strike the CDSU force while it was concentrating, or pick a suitable defensive location to ambush the assembled column as it advanced towards the base. This could also allow them to make use of the longer-ranged weaponry of the base. After discussion, they decided to take the offensive and try to destroy the enemy piecemeal.


The Action

The battlefield

Unbeknown to the AMREP command, CDSU had a power armour infantry company (two platoons), a light infantry platoon in MICVs, two heavy tank platoons and a reconnaissance section of two GIAP vehicles available. The regiment commander, who was also, as senior regimental commander in the landing force, effectively landing force commander, was also present, attached to one of the power armour platoons. The infantry were hidden in rough ground where the river passed between the hills (see map), with the tanks on either flank covering likely AMREP lines of advance, with the reconnaissance vehicles deployed well forward in the rough ground between the woods.

4-Dogged CDSU infantry

The AMREP Marines advanced in two columns, attacking from the SW and NW. The advance used an unusual tactic, leading with light tanks and infantry ahead of the dedicated reconnaissance platoon, and suffered accordingly when they encountered the CDSU GIAPs. In a devastating volley, the AMREP light tank platoon had 3 ABRAMS tanks destroyed, leaving just one vehicle and the attached FOO to scurry for the cover of the woods. Although they could not be identified through the smoke of the burning light tanks, the CDSU forces could see enough movement to show that there were additional forces moving behind the southerly woods. Responding to this, the northern heavy tank platoon began to advance off the hill to threaten the AMREP flank, unaware that they had been spotted and identified by a drone from an AMREP FOO from the North-westerly column until an artillery barrage landed across the hilltop they had just left. The barrage was closely followed by an air strike from two GOSHAWK fighters armed with ATGM that left two tanks burning. The third tank, however, brought down one of the attacking fighters with its AA chaingun, and the other fighter fell to the guns of the reconnaissance vehicles, the burning wreckage being strewn across the battlefield in format of the steep, central hill. Meanwhile dismounted AMREP marines advanced to the edge of the wooded area in the north, supported by a platoon of BOYD MBT. Engaged by the surviving HE LONG, one BOYD was quickly in flames, and the infantry was taking losses from the auto cannons and chainguns of the GIAPs. The CDSU light infantry platoon also took on their AMREP counterparts, having repositioned to cover the northern flank, causing more casualties. The BOYDs quickly drove the Chinese infantry back into cover, knocking out two of their carriers with no survivors.

5-AMREP Artillery surprised

As more AMREP forces appeared on the northern flank, the southern platoon of heavy tanks started to move forward towards the perceived threat just as the last of the northern platoon was destroyed. At this point the AMREP reconnaissance unit appeared, engaging their counterparts and finally destroying them, but not before they had reduced the infantry platoon to a solitary half-section, although their MICV remained in the woods, unengaged.

The target-rich environment had the CDSU command desperately trying to contact the Fleet to all in an air strike but not achieving communications. There were also frantically scanning the horizon for any sign of other elements of their force arriving. Meanwhile, with increasing numbers of AMREP armour coming onto the hill flanking the main infantry position, one of the power armour platoons moved up onto the crest of the hill. They spotted and destroyed an AMREP drone just in time to spoil an artillery strike that impacted on empty ground behind them. The light infantry, having debussed their troops, sent their sole remaining MICV to launch a surprise attack into the flank of the AMREP reconnaissance platoon, destroying the attached FOO vehicle. The platoon command vehicle was then destroyed by long-range fire from the remaining heavy tank platoon, although the other OLDMANs were missed. Advancing further, the Chinese tanks sighted a platoon of American CURTIS heavy tanks and engaged them with no effect. There turn fire, however, destroyed two of the Chinese tanks.

AMREP heavy tanks and infantry under fire

AMREP power armour appeared at the edge of the southern woods, but retreated back into cover as they came under fire from the sole surviving Chinese tank, repositioning so they could engage their Chinese equivalents on the hill.

The American reconnaissance platoon turned to engage the dismounted Chinese infantry, supported by an increasing number if BOYD tanks, including a full platoon that attacked the sole XE LONG MICV that had destroyed the FOO. They eventually succeeded, but at the cost of another burning BOYD, while the infantry engaged the reconnaissance vehicles and another BOYD platoon, desktop destroying 3 of the lighter vehicles and another tank. The remnant of the Chinese infantry platoon was now holding off a full company of American tanks, the remnants of the reconnaissance platoon, and the MICV from the infantry platoon that had been shattered in the woods.

Gallant CDSU infantry still holding on

To the relief of the Chinese commander, and the dismay of the Americans, CDSU reinforcements finally began arriving, with the headquarters section of 3rd battalion, 31st Guards Tank Regiment arriving on the field. As luck would have it, right next to the American artillery gun line, one of their anti-aircraft vehicles and the surviving FOO. The consequences were predictable, although not quite as bad as they could have been. The AA vehicle and the FOO exploded under the heavy plasma bolts from the HE LONGS, and an SPG was also destroyed, but other 3 guns survived although tear crews were badly shaken. The destruction of the AA gun was timely for the Chinese as they had finally managed to request air support, and two of the 4 fighters dispatched survived the orbital platforms to reach the field, destroying two more American heavy tanks with ATGM. The Americans called for interceptors to chase off the Chinese fighters, but before they arrived, two more artillery guns had exploded to Chinese air-launched missiles, although one of the Chinese fighters fell to an American AAM from an EAGLE interceptor before they could escape.

Battle climax as CDSU fighters arrive

The surviving American artillery ended up in a gun dual with the two Chinese tanks. This could only have one result, although one of the Chinese tanks was destroyed before all the American vehicles were blazing, quickly the American artillery was history.

On the central hill, the Chinese powers armour troops were engaged by two platoons of their American counterparts, and a second light infantry platoon. Although they caused some casualties, eventually they were eliminated, allowing the surviving MICV from the other infantry platoon to advance onto the hill top where they sighted the remaining CDSU power armour platoon and the command section. Two BAUMANNs almost immediately fell to fire from the Chinese armoured troops. The final vehicle succumbed shortly afterwards. At the same time, the Chinese infantry fighting at the western end of the hill finally fell silent, allowing the one surviving OLDMAN to try to flank the newly discovered Chinese and strike at the command section. The attempt failed in a hail of fire from the power armour infantry.

Airstrike !

On the south flank, two platoons of Chinese tanks arrived and started exchanging fire with both the surviving American heavy tank and the massed power armour and light infantry. The CURTIS soon burst into flames, but the sheer volume of fire directed at them, while unable to do any damage, did keep the HE LONGs buttoned up and prevented them closing in on the infantry as the surviving BOYDs tried to redeployed onto the hill to engage the Chinese. Unfortunately the Americans were unable to concentrate their tanks, allowing the Chinese to pick them off in small packets.

With over half their tanks destroyed, and the likely exchange rate with the oncoming HE LONGs not likely to be in their favour, the Americans decided it was time to break off the action to save what was left of their forces for another day.


Aftermath

In the evening sunlight, the Chinese commander, surveying a sea of burning vehicles and scattered bodies, was relieved to have survived with so little of his force having assembled. A slight squeak of metal on metal behind him as an anti-aircraft vehicle rotated its turret reminded him of the continuing threat from AMREP fighters. Amongst the wreckage he could just make out the movement of medical and repair and recovery teams as they started to rescue causalities and assess the damaged vehicles. Hopefully many of his soldiers and vehicles would be available for the next action.

Returning to his staff he began planning the next stage of the attack on the AMREP base. Although use of dropships to move troops was out of the question while the Americans had the advantage in space, perhaps the other landings could send troops overland?

The AMREP commander, as he planned his defence, was asking himself when reinforcements would arrive. Having lost the battlefield, apart from a few vehicles disabled early in the action, he had lost anything that had been knocked out, and he had no reserve, just a few tanks in the repair shop that his engineers were urgently rushing back into commission. He knew he had at least a couple of weeks to hold out to allow for his couriers to get to the next base and for anything to get back to him. How much longer it would take would depend on what forces were available, both space and ground, and could be spared, and how long it would take to mobilise these. It was also a certainty that CDSU reinforcements would be arriving, probably in a similar timeline as they typically wanted to know the initial landings had established a beachhead before committing more troops. Would his reinforcements arrive in time to secure the outpost, or just to cover the extraction of a few survivors?

While the CDSU commanders knew the schedule of their reinforcements and when they were scheduled to arrive in system, they were very aware that there was a chance that their opponents had managed to dispatch couriers that could interfere with their plans. They were also aware just how many, and how badly, the ships in system had been damaged, and how many were unable to escape due to hyperdrive damage. The planned "quick, surgical strike" had all the signs of turning into a protracted engagement unless they could seize the base quickly.

Figures and vehicles from Brigade Models
Rules - Steel Rain with some modifications
Commanders - AMREP - Andy and Marcus
CDSU - Mike

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