Part 56: Turn 8 - Soviet Combat Phase: Blood in the Don
Turn 8 - July/August 1942
The Soviets reorganize their lines in the north, stripping them of several large concentrations of units that are shifted into strategic reserve. They are replaced by a smaller formation, but one more saturated with armour and anti-armour weaponry. Meanwhile, the defenders of Leningrad prepare to wither another storm.
Around the centre, preparations are made for a massive offensive that might turn the tide of the war. Sensing the opportunity to cut off two of the most powerful German strategic formations, the Soviets move in for the kill. The 1st Baltic is pulled off the line and replaced by the 2nd Tank Army. Similarly, many other large formations cycle out the smaller and weaker ones, concentrating yet unprecedented numbers of men and armour on the front line.
Similar operations are conducted on the other side of the German penetration near Voronezh. The problem is, however, that this leaves the industrial centres of the Don basin weakly defended. The Red Army commanders take a huge gamble - if it fails, they may lose more than just a couple hundred kilometres of steppe.
Near Sevastopol, the South Front moves to prevent the German Second Army from advancing deeper along the coast.
The Ostatky and the 3rd Byelorussian make up the Soviet reserve to be deployed either after a great failure - or a magnificent victory.
I'm going to go ahead and admit I'm not an aviation buff, especially when it comes to Soviet planes, so I might get things wrong. However, I felt it's about time to give the Soviet airmen some time in the spotlight as well.
In 1937, Vladimir Petlyakov was sent to a prison camp following accusations of sabotaging the development of the Tupolev ANT-42 bomber. Once he got behind the wires, he was tasked with creating the high-altitude escort for the plane he was allegedly sabotaging - there was no such thing as conflict of interests in the Soviet Union. He developed a fast twin-engine fighter, incorporating many technological novelties and sophisticated systems. The authorities were pleased with the results and ordered production to begin, but cancelled it at the last second. You see, after the Stukas demonstrated the power of tactical bombing in the early stages of the war, the Soviets decided they wanted in on it too, and for some reason they could not think of a better way of getting it than redesigning a high-altitude escort fighter - in 45 days, as that was the deadline set for the design team. Petlyakov rose to the occasion (because the alternative was becoming a lumberjack in Siberia) and remade his project. Stalin was so pleased he not only let the guy out of jail, he also allowed the craft to be named after him, giving us the Pe-2 (nicknamed "Peshka", NATO reporting name "Buck").
It was a very special design. Unlike the slow and vulnerable Stuka, the Peshka was still a fighter plane at its core, making it fast enough to elude German interceptors. It could even take them on in a dogfight in a pinch. The bombing runs were also quite accurate, so the plane didn't miss all that much in that department either. And it had a lot of defence guns, making attacking it a risky proposition for the Germans.
It wasn't flawless, though. It took a lot of force to lift it off the ground, so much that weaker pilots simply could not handle it (this was especially common with female pilots, who flew the plane on night fighter duty). It was also very prone to catching fire and offered little protection to anyone but the pilot.
The Pe-2 served well into the 1950s and was then retired.
I need Fangz to place up to 5 Target markers on enemy hexes. Then Logicone may declare Counterblows, forcing the Soviets into more battles. After he's done with those, Fangz may commit cards to the battles, followed by Logicone doing the same. Meanwhile, the Soviet sector commanders decide which units get to attack which hexses wherever a unit borders more than one Target or CB hex (they may refuse to send some units into the fight, but all hexes designated as Target or CB have to be attacked by at least one unit). The Axis commanders declare their preferred retreat destinations, the Soviets list their preferred advance destinations.
The deadline for all this is Monday, February 17, 7 PM GMT. Good luck to all of you.