Third Euran War
|Third Euran War|
Ruthenian militia occupying a trench on the Malirusenian Front during mid-1699 AN. The image had degraded after extraction from a Zeedic digital device recovered from amongst the effects of a dead Revolutionary Armed Forces officer.
|Azad Eura (1695 AN – 1701 AN)
|Commanders and leaders|
| Trans-Euran Command
| Zeed|| Constancia
|Casualties and losses|
| Zeed ||
"We need only to kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure heaped up around Raspur will come crashing down."
On 15.II.1693 AN between 26,000 and 33,000 Zeedic militiamen crossed the frontier between the Ḡur Republic and Suren dressed as Eurani natives headed for various areas within the Durranian highlands. Surenid gendarmes, after receiving warnings from tribal herdsmen and shepherds, dispatched patrols towards the frontier later the same day, with one troop of mounted gendarmes reaching the boundary posts demarcating the entrance to the Ḡur valley by nightfall.
During the course of that day, Zeed had thoroughly wrongfooted the chancelleries of the Raspur Pact when it recognised the Republic of Elwynn and Amokolia and the Republic of Tarrland as sovereign entities. Rashid Hasanzadeh, first secretary, announced that Zeed felt solidarity with the revolutionary struggle with these two new countries, and that Zeed would support them at all costs, with the first secretary declaring "We too know what subjugation feels, and how glorious it is when one casts off one's chains". In a severe breach of diplomatic protocol, militiamen from the Popular Mobilisation Brigades, accompanied by mobs of students and the unemployed, had entered the diplomatic quarter of Rusjar, Zeeds capital, and proceeded to stage violent attacks against Raspur Pact embassies located in the city. These assaults being conducted with the seemingly tacit blessing of the first secretary. The Sanaman embassy, with its mission head Yazdan Omidi ensconced within, was amongst the first to come under a concerted mob attack. The compound perimeter was soon under a continuous hail of rocks, bricks, paving slabs, bottles and flaming "Florian cocktail" petrol bombs, whilst agitators exhorted the mob to use every object and implement at their disposal in an effort to batter down the security gates impeding their access to those inside. In response to this, Sanama dispatched a naval task force consisting of the missile cruiser SNS Cisamarra, the destroyers SNS Shako Pinusho, SNS Paki Woodesham and SNS Gjanpjetro Pinucci, and the amphibious assault ship SNS Freetellya.
Even without the prospect of a Sanaman naval task force arriving off-shore, the Zeedic Central Committee for Security and Defence remained acutely aware of the vulnerability of its coast to retaliation from the Raspur Pact now that its stance on the matter of Elwynn's civil war had been announced to the world. To mitigate this, Vladim Vasyliovich Timoshenko, erstwhile leader of the United Republics, was rehabilitated and recalled to service by his successor, 1st Secretary Rashid Hasanzadeh, as Marshal of the Army Maritime Corps of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Zeed.
Upon returning to duty on 15.II.1693 AN, Marshal Timoshenko found the most immediate problem facing him was the deplorable condition of the "fleet" assembled by the Secretary of the Central Committee for Security and Defence, Rustam Bukhori Yazghulam, for defending the coast, which consisted of one missile cruiser of Babkhan provenance, a seeming relic of the Babkhan Holocaust of 1598, six motor torpedo boats, five fast missile craft, eleven patrol boats, and a collection of confiscated fishing boats and merchant vessels. The Army Riverine Corps was not any better off, and could offer only a scant further eight patrol boats to the coastal defences.
The following day, 16.II.1693 AN, PMB militiamen entered the Rusjar Mechanical Machine-Building Plant, arresting those ESB personnel who could be found at the site, including Karl Gutzlaff, the Director of the RMMZ. In what would be a bitter irony for the Suren, those armoured vehicles and C-RAM platforms which had been ordered from the RMMZ under the Fontainebleau Accords were now requisitioned along with the plant itself for the sole use of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
This move only contributed to the escalating war of words between Zeed and the Raspur Pact as spokesmen speaking on behalf of the organisation's Permanent Commission condemned the embassy attacks and called upon the Zeedic state to abide by its international obligations to protect foreign legations hosted upon its soil. 1st Secretary Hasanzadeh denounced this "calumny" and in turn demanded the immediate withdrawal of Surenid forces whom he accused of crossing the frontier and entering the Ḡur Valley. This accusation prompted Fereydoun Jamshidi, the Astabadh of the Suren with responsibility for its international relations, to urgently attempt to contact his counterpart, only to be thwarted by being passed from pillar to post between the switchboards of the Revolutionary Council, the Union Presidium, and the Supreme Council. Exasperated, Jamshidi issued a demarche, copied to all three organs of state, insisting upon the immediate withdrawal of all Zeedic citizens presently engaged in the violation of the frontiers of the Suren, which had necessitated their own counter-deployment of Gendarmes to the border. Three hours after this communique had been received in Rusjar, 1st Secretary Hasanzadeh took to the airwaves, broadcasting over the radio from the People's Palace in Rusjar to further denounce the perfidious and shameless Suren for seeking to blame their own "pathetic and decrepit" failure in containing the Ḥezb-e Tūde-ye Eura upon the noble proletariat of Zeed. Far from being cowed, Hasanzadeh assured his listeners, Zeed would live up fully to its sacred obligation to assist all partners in the revolutionary struggle, be they in Suren, Constancia, Elwynn and Amokolia, or Tarrland, until all the petty tyrants of the decaying "Raspur-system" had been cast down.
Perhaps scenting opportunity in the midst of this crisis, the beleaguered representatives of the Free State of Constancia, trapped in the Razjanian interior by Alduria-Wechua to the north and west, loyalist Constancia to the south, and the Thraci Confederation to the east issued a bulletin via sympathetic media sites on 16.II.1693 AN declaring their full support for the Zeedic position and a willingness to back it up via whatever means would be required. Having been relentlessly ground down by the forces of the Autokrator over the preceding decade, the desperate leftists and liberals of Constancia at this stage did not have much left to lose. The Thraci Confederation announced through the national media that it would remain neutral, Thraci Confederation also denied support for the Zeedic position and announced it as a trap.
Trans-Euran Command, surprised by the aggressive posture adopted by the Zeedic government in Rusjar, had sought to restore a measure of sanity and de-escalating the conflict by throttling Zeed's maritime trade. As the long-term plans of the Raspur Pact called for Zeed to be eventually brought into the fold, whether as a full member or as a compliant neutral state, it was considered inappropriate to initiate the sort of total war that was being waged concurrently against rebels in Elwynn. While every effort would be made to stave off a Surenid collapse, the strategy towards Zeed would be one of containment and persuasion.
To this end Aqabah Command dispatched a flotilla of eighteen corvettes, supported by a single Type XXV U-Boat, to intercept Zeedic trawlers and coastal shipping in the southern waters of Eura. As Zeed's fleet comprised of a single, century-old, Babkhan missile cruiser supported by armed merchantmen, and its air arm reported to be a similarly decrepit collection of resurrected Babkhan air frames, the Návarchos Cyril Phrantzes who assembled his flotilla at Arak in mid-1693 was instructed to press his voyage as far south as onboard fuel supplies would permit, and to return with captured prizes. If the enemy's sole warship came out of port to give battle, the corvettes were to double back and to decoy the cruiser into the path of the lurking U-boat that would be following at a distance behind the main force.
Failed peace negotiations
In spite of the conflict turning against Zeed, the All-Union Revolutionary Party refused terms for a cessation of hostilities predicated upon the occupation of Zeeds's population centre by Raspur Pact forces.
Death of the Surenshah
The march on Suren
Emboldened by the failure of Operation Green-Lion, and scornful of the peace proposals received by the Trans-Euran Command, Rashid Hasanzadeh was encouraged to assume a more offensive posture. Continuing the strategy of sending proxies into battle, the 1st Secretary dispatched revolutionary "volunteers" under the command of his wife to occupy Vey. Whilst these revolutionary forces waged their struggle against the remnant population of the Euranikon Theme, the former Constancian heartland, to establish the Republic of Vey, Secretary Hasanzadeh commanded Rustam Bukhori Yazghulam to gather together the bands of the Ḥezb-e Tūde-ye Eura for a march on Surenshahr to distract the Raspur Pact forces from contemplating an intervention on the southern shore of Lake Erik.
While providing labor and materiel support for the war effort, the Republic of Malirusenia declined to provide manpower or troops to serve on Suren territory, but provided personnel for internal deployments to relieve other troops of the Union of the Republics of Zeed to serve on the frontlines.
Occupation of Vey
To be written (Republic of Vey est. 7.III.1695)
The war on the frontier and in the green
A frankly tedious and incessant round of border skirmishes, guerrilla ambushes, and reprisal raids, carried on across the frontier between the Suren and Zeedic realms, and across the ungoverned spaces on either flank. So far beneath the notice of the rest of the world that in many respects it was scarcely as if there was a war at all.
For the most part, Trans-Euran Command left matters in the hands of those local commanders, posted from the Surenid Popular Levy and the Constancian Home Guard to the frontiers, to handle as they saw fit. The comparative lack of external support and interest did not, it must be said, do wonder for the morale and initiative of those on the ground whose job it was to curb the enthusiasm of the revolutionaries and their allied tribesmen for cross-border raiding.
Following the coup known as the Red Konil in Zeed, the Surenid forces, bolstered by the supply of a large number of light attack aircraft of Alexandrian provenance, began a series of offensives to clear the province of Surenshahr of the remaining insurgents. Although not without setbacks, the guerrilla fighters in the highland regions being particularly adept at picking apart columns of Surenid conscripts along the winding vertiginous roads between mountain passes, the majority of the province bordering onto Zeedic territory had been pacified and a new forward policy of air strikes into the Ḡur Republic and the Republic of Vey.
Although Zeed could have been crushed at any time, the Trans-Euran Command wished to avoid the "endsieg" strategy employed by their Benacian colleagues which had so roiled the international community, not least because they were still living with the consequences of the last round of an equivalent destruction carried out a century previously. Moreover the long term aspiration of the Pact had been to reintegrate Zeed into the regional economic and security structures envisaged under the Fontainebleau Accords. While the insane pride of Rashid Hasanzadeh had prolonged the war needlessly, it was hoped that the new administration headed by Sergey Ilych Chernavyin would be more amenable to reason and agree to a restoration of the status quo antebellum, with adjustments to reflect Zeed's role as the wrongful aggressor in the conflict.
Until that time came however, the cross-border air-raids would continue and the proposal for a resumption of Constancian attacks on Zeedic shipping, combined with amphibious "descents" upon its vulnerable coastal communities, was presented to the General Staff for consideration.
Although it was not remarked upon at the time, Marshal Timoshenko had once again disappeared from the public eye in the aftermath of the events of Red Konil.
Operation N'aschi Shamal
In spite of the upheaval in Zeed, the "Red Konil" had not resulted in the hoped for shift in Zeed's stance. At midnight on 6.V.1697 AN the 508th Army, having advanced southwards from the Raspur Khanate during the preceeding fortnight, crossed the frontier into the Ḡur Republic, supported by Surenid militia and light strike aircraft whose identification decals had been painted over with bands of conspicuous red and gold striping. An hour prior to the invasion, operatives of the ESB-Jagdverbände, disguised as Zurvanite death-cultists, assaulted Ganzak-Gor, the seat of regional government in the Ghur Valley, targeting the headquarters of the local administration, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, and the All-Union Revolutionary Front, including the Party controlled media communications hub. Soon the longwave and shortwave radio transmitters of Ganzak-Gor were broadcasting a prepared statement in Babkhi, denouncing the "treacherous and caste-shamed Rusenian race", and calling upon the Babkhans of Zeed, as good Eurans, to prove their patriotism and faith in Zurvan by taking the knife to the throats of their "heretical" neighbours.
Leaving this havoc in its wake, the 508th Army continued its advance south-westwards out of the Gur valley and clipping the north-west corner of the territory of the Republic of Nyongolo as it pressed on into the territory of the chaotic mess that was the Government Direct Administered Territory. There opposed by the II Corps of the Revolutionary Armed Forces alongside the popular mobilisation brigades of the All-Union Revolutionary Front in the Third Military District's catchment area. The 508th Army's purpose was to drive westwards to capture Sazavar before turning southwards to continue the advance towards Adabad and finally to capture Avey on the coast. This would leave the Popular Levy of the Suren to focus on the campaign to reduce Nyongolo and to occupy the length of the River Erik valley, in spite of some doubts as to the adequacy of the Popular Levy to perform this task.
Nouvelle Alexandrie enters the war
Part of the greater impetus and interest suddenly shown by the Raspur Pact in the Euran conflict could be explained by the verified reports of lightly armoured vehicles of a Zeedic pattern encountered in the hands of rebel forces in some of the early battles of what would become the Sanaman Civil War. In spite of the failure of the Elwynnese rebellion it was evident that the regime in Zeed was continuing to support efforts to export the revolution and to undermine the member states of the Pact. Most alarming was the clear success of Zeedic blockade runners in making the perilous journey from the southern coast of Eura to the distant shores of Benacia. The collusion of Constancian naval officers in the evasion of the blockade was long suspected, and a number of senior figures at the admiralty were cashiered while their juniors were abruptly introduced to a swiftly detailed Home Guard firing squad. The purges had direct implications for the already poisonous inter-service rivalry within the Imperial Constancian Armed Forces, which would have unfortunate consequences in the following year. Even with this level of collusion it seemed unlikely that Zeedic merchantmen would make it half-way round the world without some further assistance. Since Natopian control of the waters between Tapfer and Istvanistan/Neridia made an undetected westward sailing deeply improbable, an eastward passage into the Great Western Sea, via a southerly route, was considered most likely. Accordingly interest turned towards the South Sea Islands, and most importantly Calbion, as facilitators. Calbion's naval rivalry with the Great Western Sea was well attested, and had played a significant part in the maritime aspects of Elwynn's protracted civil war. Zeed's sizeable oil reserves were one of its main sources of revenue through which it could sustain its war economy and pay for the cargoes of food and munitions with which its blockade runners would return. Calbion and the South Sea Islands would be logical locations for clearing houses involved in this trade, and staging posts for smuggling operations bound for the rebel held portions of Sanama.
Above all else, it was considered by the Joint Military Council of the Pact that the All-Union Revolutionary Front in Zeed would have been incapable of such a complex inter-continental operation without the active assistance of the Azad Eura resistance network, whose tendrils had remained embedded in the Constancian state after the fall of Vey in the Second Euran War, and whose support for Baatharzi and Iterran guerrilla groups had become an increasing bane for authorities in Alduria.
High-level, albeit discrete and deniable, discussions had been carried on between the governments of Constancia and Nouvelle Alexandrie since 1695 AN concerning the fate of Northern Eura, under the guise of a working group attached to the Euran Economic Union at Fontainebleau. By 1697 AN this grouping had firmed up an agreement in principle on how to deal with the ungoverned space between their two realms.
Operation Paramount (21.X.–12.XII.1698 AN) saw Trans-Euran Command stage a joint Constancian and New Alexandrian offensive to knockout the surviving northern statelets and militant groups associated with Azad Eura. The burning of the capital of Mbasana, and the carrying off its population into slavery marked the culmination of a short but brutal two month campaign. The destruction of Zeed's remaining Euran allies was calamitous as it meant now that the forces committed to the Zeedic front could now be doubled, with additional aviation and maritime assets brought in to the southern theatre as well.
The intervention of Nouvelle Alexandrie finally brought the islands of Altus, located on the continent's southwestern coast, into play. These islands, governed from the provincial capital of Norvind were ideally situated to serve as a staging ground for attacks against the shores Zeedic Main, albeit that their relatively underdeveloped infrastructure had previously deterred Constancian and Sanaman task forces dispatched to the region from seeking anchorages amongst the isles.
On 18.XV.1698 AN the Constancian Expeditionary Force, based around the 501st Army and the Black Banner Fleet, finally embarked and set sail from Arâk towards the south seas. The armada arrived off-shore from Norvind a fortnight later.
Some 89,040 personnel comprising the Constancian Expeditionary Force had been dispatched to Norvind, along with vehicles, equipment, and stores. This force included up to 4,800 infantry, 300 armoured fighting vehicles assigned to the Merarhia Ippikou (Cavalry Division), and 80 field guns and 111 air defence systems attached to a siege train provided by the Sóma Pyrovolikoú (Corps of Artillery). The remaining personnel being a large motley collection of administrative, combat support, and logistical support personnel, many of whom were pitched together for the first time in ad hoc units whose existence, establishment, and function, were worked into being during the duration of the voyage south.
The armada which had delivered this force to Norvind had comprised of 99 overloaded cargo vessels and transport ships escorted by an assortment of 50 corvettes, destroyers, and off-shore patrol boats. Disembarkation, in view of the limited harbour facilities, required a further fortnight. The disembarkation of troops ashore onto the Altus Islands demonstrated to all parties their limitation as a springboard for large scale operations. In the absence of adequate port facilities the armada retired northwards towards the Gulf of Aqabah once the disembarkation was complete, leaving behind a force of 25 Swift-class offshore patrol vessels to screen the southern Altus islands against any Zeedic interference. The utility of these vessels was however minimal, as the stock of surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles they once employed were long ago expended and gone without replacement, leaving the Swifts effectively unarmed beyond their close-in weapon systems. They were however blessed with powerful air-defence radars, allowing them to be placed as pickets off-shore of the Zeedic coast, giving early warning of any aerial activity detected on the enemy held mainland. For obvious reasons they had strict orders to withdraw if ever enemy vessels were encountered on the open sea.
The construction of a port at Norvind large enough to handle the quantities of shipping that would be required to undertake an invasion of the Zeedic held-southern Euran coast, and to sustain the forces that would have to be garrisoned on the Altus islands prior to such an attack, had been an enormous undertaking. Beginning at the commencement of 1699 AN, 20,000 workers, mostly kul recruited from the markets of Arak, were transported to the main island and set to work, while a further 7,000 were tasked with the rapid expansion of the primitive landing strip of the 542nd Rapid Reaction Unit's cantonment into a network of airfields and satellite runways able to house a far larger airborne assault force and the aviation assets that would be required.
The construction of the new harbour was a prodigious task, commencing with the sinking of ten obsolete Northman-class corvettes as a breakwater.
The Surenid invasion begins
As Surenid cavalry, generously equipped with Hornet recoilless anti-tank rifles and Waspsting SAM launchers that were carried on the backs of their long strings of remounts, reaved far to the south, there came news in the fourth month of 1699 of the surrender of Rustam Bukhori Yazghulam and his retinue to the representatives of Trans-Euran Command.
Surenid forces launched a fresh offensive into the Republic of Nyongolo, commencing on 18.VII.1699 AN. Opposed by Androphagi and Nyongolai militia groups, the 9th Brigade of the Surenid Popular Levy - which comprised of 7,213 gendarmes supported by 14 towed-howitzers, 1,202 Snatch Land Rovers, and approximately 2,000 camel-mounted ghilman slave-soldiers, made good progress towards the Nyongoloese capital of Asilimji where the III Corps of the Revolutionary Armed Forces had retired behind a series of four hastily dug anti-tank ditches enclosing the landward side of the riverside city and begun gathering in the Popular Mobilisation Brigades levied from the membership of the All-Union Revolutionary Front in Nyongolo.
The force gathered at Asilimji ought to have been easily sufficient to repel the Surenid incursion, formed as it was of 16,065 infantry, 507 armoured personnel carriers, including 33 anti-tank vehicles, 110 main battle tanks, 72 air defence systems, 32 infantry fighting vehicles, and 31 multiple rocket launchers, supported by 12,252 personnel and 8 patrol boats from the Army Riverine Corps operating on the Potami Androphagi (River Erik / Sandy River). Moreover the existence of ground-based air defence systems had deterred the Surenids from utilising the 10 T-4/A-4 Flecha which had been stationed in the Gur Republic since its occupation. However the President of Nyongolo, Fararaz Kinshasa, by now the de facto commander of all forces in his republic, was wavering in his loyalty to the All-Union Revolutionary Front, and had sent out discrete emissaries to make contact with the invading force led by Zahedi Khan. This caused him to stay his hand and avoid a decisive confrontation, permitting the Surenid advance upon his position to continue.
On 19.VII.1699 AN a far larger force, led by the Shahbanu Mitradokht of Suren in person, entered the main north to south valley of the Ḡur Republic. The host travelled southwards for one day, the distance covered and the size of the force being conveyed by the report that it took half a day for the entirety of the vast procession to cross the frontier. The Shahbanu's following consisted of thousands of courtiers, priests, eunuchs, slave-soldiers, wandering tradesmen, and an immense host of merchants, with more than 100,000 porters bearing supplies, performing menial work around the camp, and serving as auxiliary regiments. The convoy supporting this throng included 400 hundred light trucks, 500 camels, and some 100 elephants and their bearers. The sons and daughters of the Shahbanu, along with their surrogates, the ladies of her late brother's harem, travelled in trucks with covered canopies, concealed from prying eyes and guarded by a regiment of eunuchs equipped with machine-pistols, curved daggers, and bull-whips. The encampment of the Shahbanu stretched for over thirty kilometres along the valley and took four hours to erect or rather to construct. At the centre of the network of streets, red and white tents, and prefabricated wooden buildings, was the Shahbanu's wood and canvas walled fort, some 280 metres in diameter.
Admittance to the Shahbanu's fort was attained only via an elegant gatehouse. Into her imperial presence, where officials and courtiers stayed at strictly decreed distances from her according to their status, were led Rustam Bukhori Yazghulam, Farah Yazghulam, and their four children, who were all forced to kneel before the royal throne. Having judged them to have waged war against the Surenid, and of having engaged in treachery against the Harmonious Society by allying themselves with a Ruthenian majority state, the Shahbanu ordered their heads to be shaved and the exposed scalps tattooed with the symbol of the Surenid dynasty to symbolise their new status as vassals. Once this indignity was complete the Astabadh, Kalkul Sahib, read to them the details of the tribute that Ḡur would have to pay to the Surenid as the price for admission into the Confederacy. Rustam bowed thrice to the throne and confirmed that the first instalment of the tribute would be payed before the turn of the year, whereupon the Astabadh conferred upon him the scroll confirming his appointment as the Shahrbān of Ḡur. As pledges of his loyalty, Rustam was obliged to accept the induction of Farah and his daughters into the harem of the House of Suren, while his two sons were given to the Lady of Aspadana as an apprentices in her dark arts.
Rustam was now obliged to take his place amongst the 1,000 members of the "inner court" assembled by the Shahbanu to constitute her retinue of bodyguards whom she regarded as pledged to herself as her fidai. These courtiers were assigned to pavilions, furnished luxuriously with silken divans, elaborately patterned woven carpets, and richly decorated tapestries, that were organised in a concentric ring around the central fort. Outside of this ring of pavilions was the crimson tent assigned to the inmates of the harem, around which clustered the tents of the eunuch guards. Beyond this laid hundreds of tents housing 3,000 household servants, including 1,000 swordsmen and wrestlers to provide evening entertainment, 500 torchbearers to provide illumination for the dignitaries during the watches of the night, and a regiment formed for the hundreds of elephant minders and camel herdsman attached to the camp.
The following day was devoted to receiving the submission of tribal chieftains from the outlying hill districts and the administration of justice, after which those adjudged as guilty were staked out naked on the hillsides for vultures and wild beasts to find and devour.
Following the conquest of Gur, and the invasion of Malirusenia and Nyongolo, the Shahbanu of the Suren commanded that the reduction of the Republic of Garujulia be commenced, even at the height of the southern hemisphere's winter.
When Paykar Khan, Sartip of the Brigades of Zjand Bassari, objected to mounting an assault against the mountain valley of Garujulia, the Shahbanu ordered him to be disembowelled - his entrails were duly drawn out on a windlass in a macabre spectacle performed before the assembled officers of the army.
With this example in mind, Durmish Khan, Sartip of the Brigades of Kapavia, accepted the Farman to conquer Garujulia without demurral.
Two brigades of the State Gendarmerie, the 8th Mounted Brigade and the 12th Auxiliary Police Brigade, crossed into Garujulia on the morning of 18.XI.1699 via two parallel valleys, one larger extending to the north, and on one smaller and narrower to the southwest.
For Durmish Khan the objective was to secure Jojokheti and to compel a general surrender of the Zeedic forces within the two valleys within thirty days. Wealth and glory awaited him if he succeeded, although the awful fate of Paykar Khan served as a warning of what would befall him if he failed in his mission.
The invasion met minimal resistance, the towns of Garet and Sazghvrebi alone having been burnt before the Surenid column advancing of Jojokheti encountered emissaries from the Supreme Soviet outside the town of Tavisupleba. Displeased after being denied the opportunity to plunder yet another defenceless settlement, and thereby slake the bloodlust of his followers, Durmish Khan was not however willing to risk a pitched battle for control of the territory. Instead he appointed seven commissioners to accompany the emissaries back to Jojokheti to negotiate the terms of the tribute that would be paid to formalise the surrender. From Tavisupleba meanwhile he demanded that all treasures and valuables, along with all women under the age of thirty as well as all beardless youths, be assembled in the town square for his inspection. Those which he found pleasing he had sent in covered lorries back to the camp of the Suren Shahbanu for her delectation. The troops he selected to escort this convoy proved however to be a poor choice. After a day's travel they mutinied, raped the captives, plundered the vehicles, and made off into the hills to live as brigands. This proved to be an incident that gravely embarrassed Durmish Khan in the eyes of his sovereign and which forever soured relations between the nominally submitted Garujulish and the Suren, killing whatever hope there may have been of making their submission permanent.
The heroic efforts of the Popular Mobilisation Brigades and the Committees of Public Safety, as well as the sacrifice of the masses were insufficient to stem the tide of imperialist aggression. Back-channel negotiations with the major Euran powers through the delegation at the Euran Economic Union soon took place. Unofficial, unconfirmed information from sources claimed that the only true negotiation details were adequate accommodations for certain high government officials of the Union. This drew from the Shahbanu of the Suren the public retort that she would be spending the Southern Hemisphere summer of 1699/1700 encamped amidst the ashes of Rusjar.
In spite of this confidence, the Surenid offensive ultimately stalled amidst shortages of ammunition, food, and fuel, combined with an over-reliance upon air power to counter the Zeedic superiority in armoured fighting vehicles and artillery.
The Southern front opens
On 6.XI.1699 AN, Lors Bakker-Kalirion, the newly appointed Head of the Political and Military Mission of the Benacian Union to Constancia, Suren, and the Euran Economic Union, arrived in Norvind with his staff and retinue to join the elements of the Constancian Expeditionary Force and the Rapid Reaction Forces of Nouvelle Alexandrie, now arriving on the island following the successful conclusion of Operation Paramount in the preceding year. Uncertainty over the Higher Command situation had impeded the commencement of the allied campaign, and while the commanders of the expeditionary forces deployed to Altus had used the delay to their advantage in order to build up base infrastructure, amass supplies, and commence a rigorous training programme for the assault to come, one of the objectives for Lors was to re-energise the campaign by any means necessary, including assisting in the resolution of the question of command if needed.
Plans to dispatch a full strength expeditionary force, drawn from the Black Legions, had to be shelved as the collapse of Drak-Modan and the Sanaman Civil War, together with the ongoing situation in Cakari-occupied Kildare, prevented the transfer of significant forces from the Northern Hemisphere. Instead the New Alexandrian and Constancian contingents deployed to Altus were reinforced by paramilitary formations:
- ESB Directorate of Security
- ESB Euran Directorate
- N&H Vanguard Group
- 1st Vanguard Division
- 12th Vanguard Division
- 15th Vanguard Division
In consequence, the deployed allied expeditionary forces in Altus had grown to significant dimensions:
|Deadweight tons (shipping)||311,478|
|Air squadrons||Air superiority |
The scale of the build up, and the concentration of shipping and air transportation assets associated with keeping such a substantial force supplied, being underscored by the deployment of a Geneva anti-ballistic missile system and six Silver Hammer batteries to Norvind. Moreover, as the infrastructure of the Altus islands improved the Altus Banner Air Group, a subordinate command of the New Alexandrian 1st Air Fleet, was also expanded considerably:
Altus Banner Air Group
With the scale of the operation now poised to eclipse that of the previous year's Operation Paramount, a Military Council was established in Norvind under the Chief of Staff for Trans-Euran Command, which to the possible chagrin of the civil authorities of Constancia recalled to the banners several ministers of the cabinet and the Council of Molivadia:
|Rank & Name||Nationality||Post|
|Stratárchis Abeiron Maniakes||Chief of Staff, Trans-Euran Command|
|Arteshbod (brevet) Demetrios Thesalonikis||Officer Commanding, 501st Army (Allied Expeditionary Force, Altus)|
|Corps-General Augusto Landry||Officer Commanding, I (Alduria) Combined Arms Corps|
|Frainan Uihmanzis Lors Bakker-Kalirion||Head of Benacian Union Political and Military Mission|
|Sarlashkar Soterios Kostas||Director of Operations|
|Sarlashkar Guglimundo Kupras||Director of Logistics|
|Yponavarchos Apolyon Marinakis||Director of Maritime Movements|
|Sarlashkar Antares Papadakis||Director of Manpower|
|Sarlashkar Cifras Kuroumboulis||Director of Shore Movements|
|Jost Grobba||Representative of the Honourable Company|
In view of its number the assembly soon became known as the Council of Ten. Several significant aspects of planning for a large amphibious invasion, which would otherwise have been the preserve of the Navy to organise, had instead been placed in the hands of reserve officers recalled from civilian life on account of the Admiralty being somewhat out of favour after the recent strife of the Officers' War.
The island of Alduria, as distinct from the eponymous federal region, was the southernmost island of Nouvelle Alexandrie. It's remoteness had kept it out of the conflict in spite of the strategic benefits offered by its proximity to Rusjar, the capital of Zeed. Even after Nouvelle Alexandrie had formally entered the wider Euran conflict on the side of its Raspur Pact allies, Constancia and Suren, the Revolutionary Armed Forces had made no move against the island, deciding that there was no sense in providing the Alexandrians a pretext upon which to expedite or deepen their involvement in a conflict that was conspicuously and deliberately underplayed by the regional and federal authorities in Punta Santiago and Cardenas respectively.
Nonetheless, without carrier aviation to call upon, the KP Týmpana-se-vathiá having been beaten up pretty badly during the 1699 War of the Officers, the single 3,800 m concrete runway of Alduria City Regional Airport would have to be brought into service as a base for tactical aviation operating against Zeedic targets if the amphibious operations to open up a southern front were to be a realistic proposition at all.
With the forces assigned to the campaign building up to their peak strength deployed around Norvind, and with Hatkrou being outside the range of plausible Zeedic retaliation, the decision was made to concentrate the three regiments of the 3rd Territorial Defence Unit (2x infantry, 1x artillery), hitherto tasked with defending the entirety of Altus onto Alduria Island, and deploy two regiments of airborne engineers to take possession of the island's sole airport as a prelude to its expansion. The deployment would also have the advantage of being a limited training exercise for those tasked with conducting the impending invasion of the mainland.
Operation Mehlville therefore required the deployment of three regiments by sea and two by air. 6,100 troops were gathered and briefed, supplies loaded onto vehicles and ships, vehicles loaded onto landing ships and men were boarded onto landing craft and C-11 Mula light transport aircraft, of the latter of which 120 were assigned to the operation representing five squadrons out of sixteen available to the Altus Banner Air Group.
Air Landing Force
Amphibious Landing Force
Fleet, Aviation & Support Elements
On 7.XII.1699 AN the directive to commence with Operation Mehlville was given by the Council of Ten. Command of the deployment was placed in the sole charge of the Federal Navy's Flag Officer for the Altus Station, the catch all term for those elements of the Navy's Euran Fleet assigned to the build up of forces off shore from Norvind. Templates for a hastily cobbled together formation badge were circulated to unit quartermasters for stencilling onto assigned vehicles and vague approximations prepared as tactical recognition patches to sow onto uniforms.
Two Seafox-class corvettes sailed at 09.45 on 8.XII.1699 AN with an advance party of civil affairs specialists and light infantry. Thirty minutes later the first wave of twenty-four transport aircraft took off from Norvind's primary airbase bound for Alduria City. On the island of Alduria itself the small garrison of Marines and the local contingent of border guards from the Federal Guards Service deployed to the Alduria City Regional Airport in order to establish a defensible perimeter. The Federal Air Force made an appearance, with flypasts by the charmingly named Honey Badgers over Alduria City at 13.00. The Constancian Omega Moíra, a fighter squadron equipped with Ashavans and specialised reconnaissance platforms, endeavoured to keep a continuous rotation of four plane combat air patrols up over Alduria City along the flightpath of the air lift. Although Zeed had made no hostile move during the build up at Norvind, it was reasoned that the deployment to Alduria island might yet trigger a response. As it was to prove in this instance.
By careful husbandry, a concerted effort to reverse engineer and fabricate parts, and a touring of aviation museums, the Revolutionary Armed Forces had been able to maintain in service fifteen of the twenty-nine F7 Tughra fighters they had returned to service prior to the start of the war. Although capable aircraft in their day, the Tughras were over a century old, assembled from airframes and parts recovered from underground Babkhan facilities where they had been held in literal deep storage. As such the Calbion-trained pilots of the Army Air Corps were never wholly confident of their aircraft. The debate amongst pilots and aircrew as to which of their losses had been due to enemy action and which should be attributed instead to metal fatigue was the occasion of a certain amount of grim gallows humour in mess halls and bars.
As the morning of 8.XII.1699 AN progressed, the air defence radars positioned around Avey began to pick up a larger than usual volume of air-traffic inwards bound towards Alduria City. The appearance of four fast moving contacts amongst the clusters of slow returns made it all but certain that this was an operational sortie of the Pact forces garrisoned in the Altus Islands, but as to what end the air defence command centre in Avey was none the wiser, but duly passed an alert to the General Headquarters in Rusjar. Two Tughras were scrambled from dispersal airstrips outside of Avey to investigate. These were soon detected by the Constancian Swift-class offshore patrol vessels which had long been stationed as pickets off the Altus Islands. Two Ashavans peeled off from the combat air patrol to intercept the oncoming aircraft from the mainland. Of the two pairs the Ashavans, with more modern avionics and radar, were able to acquire a fire control radar lock-on first, obliging the Tughras to break their headlong approach and begin intensive evasive manoeuvres. One of the Tughras was able to evade several of the mediocre Sonderwang air-to-air missiles launched after it only for its pilot to discover a cascading malfunction spreading through its avionics systems. The pilot continued to undertake a series of evasive turns whilst the onboard observer struggled to return the figher's malfunctioning systems back to working order. Ironically it was getting clear of the short-range air-to-air missiles which left the Tughra, coming out of a series of high energy turns, in a vulnerable position and struck by a proximity airburst from an air launched S-2 missile. It was a testimony to the pilot and observer that they were able to return the shredded aircraft to Avey and land it with one engine out. Contact was lost with the second Tughra, its fate unknown to both sides. Constancian patrol vessels dispatched to the area after the engagement made no discovery of any wreckage or indicative fuel slick on the water.
As news of the engagement filtered back to Rusjar the edict was soon issued that all Babkhan-era airframes were to be grounded with immediate effect.
The day the island was declared secured on 20.XII.1699 AN, construction of the airport's second runway began, with the two Army airborne engineering battalions tasked to clear scrub and level the terrain to create the runway utilising segments of pierced steel planking. On 19.XIII.1699 AN the Federal Cantonment, with its 3,200 m runway together with taxiways and hardstands for 120 aircraft, was declared ready for use.
Attacks against Rusjar
With the airbase on Alduria island operational, the first air strikes against targets around Rusjar since the ill-fated Operation Green Lion at the start of the war commenced on 04.XIV.1699 AN. Initial targets were the remaining, now grounded, Babkhan-era fighter aircraft as well as the air defence systems grouped around the capital. These ground-based systems amounted to eight 9A1 'Grom 'Hailstorm' Guided Missile C-RAM", a further eight 9A1Б 'Shkval 'Storm' C-RAM and seventy-two self-propelled anti-aircraft guns of a Babkhan vintage coordinated by four Mobile Medium Range Radar Stations and Mobile Command Posts, both based on a light armoured vehicle of local design.
Small quantities of the "Strong Girl" air-launched cruise missile were available to the Altus Banner Air Group, but could only be carried by the Constancian F-9 Ashavan II after substantial modifications to the hardpoints and weapons systems of the latter allowed the avionics of the missile and the carrying aircraft to "talk" to one-another. These were therefore reserved for deployment from two adapted Ashavans against high value targets approved by the Council of Ten. The first attacks utilising these being carried out against the Presidential Palace on the night of 5.XIV.1699 AN, with an attack on the next night being launched against the embassy of the "Free Elwynnese" (at the request of the Benacian Union which characterised the site as a venue for Verionist espionage). These attacks however were compromised in their effectiveness by the presence of C-RAM systems in the city covering critical targets, including ministry buildings and the Rusjar Mechanical Machine-Building Plant.
Lacking a dedicated air defence suppression aircraft, the Raspur Pact air forces instead attempted to hunt for enemy batteries by the means of a lure. A C-11 Mula, towing a magnetic anomaly detector, was placed in the precarious position of flying orbits at a height of 8,000 metres around Rusjar as a decoy to tempt ground based air defences to initiate their systems and engage a target that behaved as though it were engaged in some kind of reconnaissance mission. Accompanying the Mula would be four T-5/A-5 Tejón de Miel equipped with bombs and unguided rockets and, at a greater distance and higher altitude, single Ashavan equipped with a brace of S-2 Standard Missiles ready to have a pop at anything that attempted to engage the five aircraft below. The gambit did not pay-off as the Mula and one of its escorts was brought down by a flurry of surface to air missiles launched by four Mobarez surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery systems, of which only one was successfully hit in reply.
Nonetheless, in spite of the less than promising opening nights, it was deemed crucial to continue keeping the pressure on Rusjar, so as to force the revolutionary regime's attention to remain upon the defence of its own capital. Further tip and run attacks on the capital were carried out on the nights of the 7th and 8th nights of the fourteenth month (Apellaios). Favours called in by the Trans-Euran Command saw Natopian satellite reconnaissance assets reassigned to monitoring Rusjar. By this means, suspected air defence sites were identified and subjected to bombing runs from high altitude. Unfortunately some of the bombs would fall indiscriminately around the city as pilots proved prone to jettisoning their payload and turning for home as soon as their radar lock-on warning receptors sounded. All of which added to the discomfort and unease of those inhabitants in the city obliged to take shelter as bombs fell during the course of the night seemingly at random in the neighbourhoods around them.
The loss of the northern oil fields during the Surenid advance of 1698/1699 had left Zeed dependent upon the output of the Sazavar oil fields, making these a major target for the Raspur Pact. With the Altus airfields operational it would be possible for the strategic bomber force assigned to Aqaba Command to make the round trip to bomb Sazavar with a stop over on the islands and a return to the core Constancian territories via Arak.
Operation Galatás, as the mission to Sazavar was called, began with twenty-five B-49 Delta strategic bombers assigned to the control of the Beta Moíra, at Aqaba. With pilots and crews assembled from across the Imperial Constancian Air Force and the Honourable Company, they were formed into the 1st Bomber Group during the tenth to thirteenth months of 1699. With the remaining assets of the Revolutionary Armed Forces being spread thin by the Surenid occupation of the north and the threat of allied amphibious landings in the south, the Deltas were being prepared for a low-level mission in daylight against what was expected to be minimal ground-based air defences.
Shortly after the raiding force departed Aqaba at dawn on the 9th of Apellaios, 1699 the plane carrying the formation's senior navigator crashed in the desert after reporting cascading mechanical failures. The B-49 was an aircraft design dating back to the earliest days of the Sxiro-Jingdaoese Confrontation, and its venerable age was starting to show.
Ninety minutes into the flight, as the remaining twenty-four aircraft crossed over into the ungoverned interior of the continent, the planned flightpath intersected with a radiation-laden sandstorm whipped up by the desert winds of the Zsharra. Buffeted by the heavy dust storm that whipped around them, the formation broke-up and the aircraft that emerged on the other side continued their journey southwards in a staggered echelon line. Another one of the B-49's had been lost during the calamity, its sand-clogged jet-turbines flaring out. The last report from the stricken aircraft warned of an engine fire in the aft-wing. Neither the aircraft, nor its crew, were ever heard of again.
Crossing over into Zeedic airspace an hour and twenty-minutes later, the bombers dropped down to almost ground-level, barely skimming the dunes. Navigation amongst the lead aircraft, utilising satellite photographs and vague notations in lieu of accurate maps, failed at this point entirely. Proceeding southwards, the intention had been for the bomber-stream to by-pass the target area before looping around to commence their bombing runs from the south-west. Instead the Constancian aviators lost the last semblance of formation flying and fanned out across the skies of Zeed searching for the landmarks that would correlate to the "maps" and the faulty readings of their ancient Shirerithian inertial navigation systems. One navigator valiantly attempted to direct his assigned bomber using the GPS of his Natopian phone and a downloaded New Alexandrian geocode app - to little avail. In consequence, the remaining twenty-three Constancian aircraft converged on Sazavar from all angles.
Worse was yet to come for the attackers, in addition to delivering their payloads whilst avoiding headlong collisions, the bombers also had to contend with alerted air defences. In spite of taking every effort to baffle the air defence radar network of their enemies, the low-flying bombers had been spotted by observers from the long range desert patrols put out into the Euran interior by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The timely warning saw the 9A1Б 'Shkval 'Storm' C-RAM assigned to defend the refinery complex, along with every available machine-gun in the Sazavar district, trained skywards in anticipation of the arrival of the bomber formation. The first bombers to arrive flew directly into the heavy and accurate fire of the C-RAM, positioned to counter threats anticipated from the north and east. The result was carnage, as plane after plane was swatted out of the sky. Bombers approaching the firing arc of the C-RAM, and witnessing the fate of the aircraft ahead of them, jettisoned their bombs short of the target before urgently breaking away. Bombers coming in from the west and south had better luck, having only to shrug off frantic machine-gun fire from militia emplacements around the target - the C-RAM's ability to engage being hampered by the structures of the refinery itself - in order to pick out their targets and commence their attack runs. Pandemonium ensured, as the converging bombers cross-threaded their flightpaths, barely missing each other. Once the first two oil-tanks were ablaze it soon became possible to pick out individual targets, with the bombardiers of the following aircraft aiming for the flames at the source of the conflagrations and hoping for the best.
In spite of the calamitous way in which the attack had been executed, the effect on Zeedic oil production was itself devastating. With the refinery out of action for two months after the raid, and operating at below its potential for long thereafter, the last crutch that had been sustaining the Revolutionary Armed Forces' ability to conduct mechanised manoeuvre warfare had been knocked out from under it. The moment of reckoning was thereby brought one step closer.
For the Constancians it had been a costly endeavour. In addition to the two aircraft lost in-flight a further eleven bombers had been shot out of the sky whilst over the refinery. The entirety of the kills being attributed to the 9A1Б 'Shkval which had been assigned to defend the refinery. Seventy-two aircrew perished during the raid. Zeedic casualties on the ground were unknown but the commander of II Corps was soon to join them, put to death after summary judgement before a revolutionary tribunal for his failure to concentrate the majority of his air defence assets around a strategic industrial target of such singular importance to the war economy.
Landings at Avey
After a cursed journey around the eastern coast of Eura the KP Týmpana-se-vathiá, a partially inoperable aircraft carrier and one-time flagship of the Constancian navy arrived off the Alduria island roads on 14.XIV.1699 AN and received Yponavarchos Apolyon Marinakis as flag officer shortly thereafter, with the vessel serving as a command vessel for the Director of Maritime Operations and his staff. With this laggard arrival now in place the order to commence the amphibious invasion of southern Zeed was finally given.
The target of the invasion forces assembled in the Altus islands would be the port city of Avey, the last significant anchorage available to Zeed and the means by which its heavily embargoed economy could still obtain a scarce minimum of its food requirements in exchange for smuggled oil exports. The last remaining alternative for Zeed to reach international markets was via the Bassarid criminal networks operating in the River Erik provinces, but relations with those cabal-like syndicates had been frosty ever since the Zeedic occupation of Zätosht immediately prior to the war.
On the morning of 15.XIV.1699 AN - the Zeedic mobile radar system covering Avay reported a flight of unidentified aircraft approaching the port. The report of raiders was sent to Operations Centre of the 1st Army, and to the adjacent sector commands controlled by the Second and Fifth Military Districts. The course of the incoming planes was tracked in both places. As the bay onto which Avay faced marked the point of convergence for the area of responsibility of each of the aforementioned command, each felt obliged to activate their respective air defence networks and to put aloft such UAVs and spotter planes they had managed, by prudence and caution, to marshal in anticipation of the decisive moment. By the relative airspeed of the approaching aircraft they were deduced to be either the T-4/A-4 or the T-5/A-5 type of light attack aircraft which formed the majority and balance of the airpower marshalled by the Pact on Norvind and Altus.
The incoming flight of four Honey Badgers soon found themselves in the invidious position of being pursued by eight "Karrar" attack drones converging on their location. The antique drones, of Babkhan provenance, were equipped with jury-rigged surface to air missiles taken from captured Surenid manpad launchers, while the air-to-air missiles carried by the Honey Badgers were also of an proven unsatisfactory type. Prudently, the intruding flight turned about and returned towards the open sea, with the attack drones - which proved to be capable of top speeds almost matching the Honey Badgers - following in pursuit. An Ashavan stationed at Alduria City Regional Airport was scrambled to see off the unwelcome pursuers. Whilst the lead pair of attack drones engaged the intercepting fighter, the remainder retired towards their airfields of origin. Following another unsatisfactory exchange of defective infrared-seeking air-to-air missiles, the Ashavan engaged the pair of drones with its 30mm cannon in a head-on pass before disengaging. The Constancian pilot reported that one of the Zeedic drones broke apart after being fired upon - an evaluation of the Ashavan's gun-camera and data logs seemingly confirmed this - which was sufficient for credit to be given for the "kill".
This initial encounter was followed by a series of air raids and feints directed towards Rusjar throughout the day and low-level attacks against suspected radar sites along the length of the coastline between Avay and the Zeedic capital.
Attempts at suppressing the Revolutionary Armed Forces' air defence and radar networks proved to be wholly unsuccessful. In any event the appearance of two hundred and eighty transport aircraft and their accompanying escorts proved impossible to disguise as they gained altitude, climbing from airfields on Norvind island during the twilight hours of 15.XIV.1699 AN. In spite initially appearing to be set on a course towards Rusjar, the defenders on the ground were not greatly surprised by this turning out to be a feint as the formation changed course towards Avey. Air defences, alerted in good time, accordingly were able to pick off two dozen of the transport aircraft as they passed into range.
Two designated landing zones, situated north and east of Avey, received the first wave of parachutists from four Rapid Response Units of Nouvelle Alexandrie's I Corp. These units, intermingled and dispersed in the confusion of a nighttime drop, did their best to secure their immediate vicinity, link up with their neighbours, and attempt to form ad hoc battle groups with which to secure the landward approaches to the city before the coming of the dawn.
The amphibious invasion fleet, spearheaded by Constancian corvettes and transport ships were within view of the approaches to Avey's harbour by five a.m. on the morning of 16.XIV.1699. Naval gunnery support was provided by two Constancian Duchy-class destroyers and a Dominator-class cruiser of Nouvelle Alexandrie's Euran Armada.
By half-five in the morning, one of the lead corvettes had struck a glancing blow against a pylon-mounted submerged improvised explosive device. The resulting detonation blew the prow of the corvette clean-off, causing the vessel to capsize and obliging the vessels following behind to bank sharply to avoid collision. Troop transport ships were brought to a halt and mixed parties of engineers, infantry, and naval ratings were put into motor launches and rowboats to clear a safe channel for the landing forces.
The initial landings commenced at six-fifty a.m., with attacks on the artillery batteries on the flanks of the main landing area. As gun batteries onshore began to return fire, the ships of the fleet responded with the laying down of smoke.
On their way in, the landing craft and escorts heading towards the harbour ran into and exchanged fire with an armed trawler and a pair of tugboats. Although this encounter was reported up the chain no action in response was deemed necessary by the Council of Ten, as the coastal defences were expected to be overwhelmed imminently.
At twelve minutes past seven, a salvo of forty rocket-assisted glide-bombs were launched from concealed Zeedic positions on shore towards the collection of vessels sheltering in the smoke filled bay. One of these devices caught a Duchy-class destroyer with a plunging dive and struck it amidships.
The first landing parties ashore comprised of kul volunteers taken from Mbasana in the preceding year. Leading them were officers associated with disgraced figures in the Constancian Admiralty, who had been fatally embarrassed by their own association with a treasonable conspiracy. These gentlemen at least, although dishonoured and broken down to the lowest commissioned rank and assigned to labouring duties on Norvind, had been accorded a chance for redemption by leading the Forlorn Hope in its assault on the harbour defences. The kuls had similarly been promised their freedom and the right to plunder the city if they survived.
Breakout and exploitation
Raspur Pact Compensation Commission
The Raspur Pact set up a Compensation Commission in 1703 to receive claims by individuals, organizations, and governments against the Zeed state and people for initiating a war of aggression. Initial estimates pegged claims to amount to 130 billion Craitish Cräite.