The scenarios of Shifting Sands – Part 1

October 5, 2017 · Posted in Command 

Shifting Sands, the new standalone expansion for CMANO, is to be released soon by MatrixGames, together with the new v1.13 game update. In this multi-part series we cover the scenarios of this new campaign set. Part 1 covers the period from the sidelines of the Suez Crisis to the Six-Day War, Israel’s strategic triumph that reshaped the Middle East.

1. Red Sea Rumble

Egypt vs. United Kingdom
Date/Time: 31st October, 1956 / 22:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Gulf of Suez
Duration: 6 Hours
Playable Sides: United Kingdom

On late October 1956, as the Suez crisis bloomed out to a full intervention, a number of RN ships found themselves in the Red Sea, cut off from the rest of the active British forces. As has always been the case, the Red Sea was chock-full of neutral and commercial shipping, so rules of engagement were tight. Even against positively identified Egyption vessels, the instructions were to warn and turn ships around, and engage only as self-defence.

On the evening of October 31, HMS Newfoundland, a British Fiji-class cruiser, encountered a darkened ship passing here in the opposite direction. The Newfoundland closed to 1,500 yards, and came parallel to this ship, signalling it to heave-to or be fired upon. The darkened ship, later identified as the Egyptian Navy frigate Domiat, signalled acknowledgement and appeared to slow down. Then suddenly it extinguished its running lights and trained her guns on the RN ship.

Newfoundland signalled to her consorts that she was engaged with a confirmed hostile, and Domiat likewise called for reinforcements. The fight was on.

2. Cross Border Skirmish

Israel vs. Syria
Date/Time: 13th November, 1964 / 08:00:00 Zulu
Location: Syria – Golan Heights
Duration: 4 Hours
Playable Sides: Israel

Following the first Arab-Israeli war, Israel and Syria both claimed sovereignty over several “Demilitarized Zones” along their border. These zones were set up as part of the cease-fire ending the war. Israel attempted to farm the land in these zones, while Syria developed a project to divert water from the Jordan River, which Israel shared with both Syria and Jordan.  Syrian forces often fired on Israeli tractors attempting to farm the zones, while Israel looked for ways to interrupt the Syrian diversion project.

On Nov. 13, 1964, Syrian forces stationed on the top of the Golan Heights, a plateau overlooking Israeli territory in the Jordan River valley, fired on Israeli tractors. Israeli forces returned fire. Syrian artillery then targeted Israeli civilian villages, and Israel responded with air attacks on Syrian forces. The skirmish then escalated rapidly.

3. Hit Hard Hit Fast

Israel vs. Egypt
Date/Time: 5th June, 1967 / 05:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Duration: 3 Hours
Playable Sides: Israel

In the months leading up to the June 1967, tensions among Israel and the neighboring countries of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were extremely high. With the surrounding Arab nations, particularly Egypt, equipped with Soviet vehicles and weaponry and increasingly hostile to the existence of Israel, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) felt increasingly that only a massive pre-emptive strike would enable Israel to prevail in the coming conflict, and planned for it. One of the key components of this planning was Operation Moked (Focus), an Israeli Air Force (IAF) operation designed to completely destroy the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. Initially planned during the years following the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956, the operation was refined further by air force commanders prior to the war.

Operation Moked was launched on June 5 at 7:45 am, timed precisely to coincide with Egyptian early morning air patrols returning to their bases and standing down. Almost all of Israel’s combat aircraft were committed to the airstrike, with only twelve being held back to patrol Israeli airspace. The strike ingress was at extremely low altitude, hoping to duck under Egyptian radar and SAM coverage.

Egyptian airbase protective infrastructure was poor, with no airfields equipped with hardened aircraft shelters capable of protecting aircraft in the event of an attack. The Egyptians also hindered their own defence by temporarily shutting down their entire air defence network as they were worried that rebel Egyptian factions would shoot down the plane carrying Field Marshal Amer and Lt-Gen. Sidqi Mahmoud, who were en route from al Maza to Bir Tamada in the Sinai to meet the commanders of the troops stationed there.

On this dawning June morning, the IAF re-wrote the book on offensive counter-air (OCA) operations.

4. Rockstar Calling

Date/Time: 8th June, 1967 / 11:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Playable Sides: US 6th Fleet
Duration: 1 Day

The attack on the USS Liberty remains, to this date, one of the sore points of US-Israeli relations.

During the Six-Day War between Israel and several Arab nations, the United States officially maintained a neutral status. Several days before the war commenced, the Liberty (call sign “Rockstar”), an electronic intelligence ship (officially a “technical research ship”), was ordered to proceed to the eastern Mediterranean area to perform a signals intelligence collection mission in international waters near the north coast of the Sinai. After the war erupted, due to concerns about her safety as she approached her patrol area, several messages were sent to Liberty to increase her allowable closest point of approach (CPA) to Egypt’s and Israel’s coasts from 12.5nm and 6.5nm, respectively, to 20nm and 15nm, and then later to 100nm for both countries. However, due to ineffective message handling and routing, the CPA change messages were received too late.

On the afternoon of 8 June 1967, Liberty was attacked and heavily damaged by Israeli air and naval forces; eventually, 34 crewmen were killed and 174 wounded.

Two US Navy carrier task groups (Saratoga and America) were in the eastern Mediterranean, south of Crete, when the attack on the Liberty commenced. The intelligence ship called for immediate assistance to protect from the ongoing attack.

This is what might had happened next.

5. The Iron Coast

Israel vs. Egypt
Date/Time: 11th July, 1967 / 19:45:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Playable Sides: Israel / Egypt
Duration: 6 Hours

Israel emerged from the Six-Day War of 1967 with a much longer coastline to protect. The land borders were shorter, but the sea now included the entire Sinai coast. The actual fighting was over, but officially the state of war was not ended. Egypt sent intelligence operatives into the Sinai peninsula to gather information on Israeli dispositions. Israel, in turn, maintained patrols along the coast both at sea and on land.

The patrols in July 1967 were usually made by the destroyers Yaffo and/or Eilat. The destroyers were accompanied on these missions by a pair of torpedo boats from the 914th Division. These patrols covered the Sinai coast up to the approaches to Port Said. There was nothing in the written orders about seeking an engagement. However, Commanders were encouraged to ambush and destroy any Egyptian ship that ventured out. Despite this, they should avoid engaging ex-Soviet destroyers of the Skory class, now in Egyptian service, because of their superior firepower.

In one such patrol, on July 11, this proved easier said than done…

6. A New Age

Israel vs. Egypt
Date/Time: 21st October, 1967 / 14:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Playable Sides: Egypt
Duration: 6 Hours

The Soviet Komar-class (Project 183R) fast attack craft, entering service in 1958, were a revolutionary new type of coastal combat ships, thanks to their armament of SS-N-2 “Styx” anti-ship missiles, the first such practical weapon to be operationally deployed on tactical ships (larger missiles such as the SS-N-1 “Scrubber” and SS-N-3 “Shaddock” were typically nuclear-tipped and intended for strategic strikes). The Soviet Union mass-produced and distributed these ships liberally to its allies and client states as a way of reducing their vulnerability to western “gunboat diplomacy”. Egypt had received five such boats starting in 1962. They did not see much use in the catastrophic Six-Day War, but they would soon show their mettle.

INS Eilat (ex-HMS Zealous), a Z-class destroyer sold to the Israeli navy post-war, had already distinguished herself on both the 1956 and 1967 conflicts, most recently sinking two Egyptian torpedo-boats off the Rumani coast. On October 21, 1967, she was patrolling in international waters off Port Said in the Sinai. At the time, two of the Egyptian Komar boats were inside the harbor. They were ordered to attack and destroy the Eilat.

The engagement that followed would send shockwaves throughout the naval operations community and influence the design of ships, weapons, electronics and countermeasures for decades to come.

Next: From the War Of Attrition to Yom Kippur


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