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2005 Polnitsan War

2005 Polnitsan War
2005 war montage.png
Clockwise: the North Polnitsan invasion of South Polnitsa, Latin Air Force Ifrits during the war, Arthuristan mechanised infantry column in South Polnitsa, destroyed Northern PS-72M1 tank, North Polnitsans being taken prisoner, street fighting during the North Polnitsan Revolution
Date25 December 2004 – 4 March 2005
Location
Result Coalition victory. Polnitsan reunification and merger with Garima
Belligerents
 North Polnitsa
Flag of Libya (Red Alert 2).svg Gariman Revolutionary Front
Supported by:
 Elatia
 South Polnitsa
 Garima
 Arthurista
 Garza
 Latium
 Drevstran (naval forces only)
 Yisrael (aerial forces largely)
Commanders and leaders
Polnitsa Colonel General Pavle Kosyk Polnitsa Henry III  
Garima Generalleutnant Hans Ziegler
Strength
55,000 Operation Daffodil: 20,000 (ground forces)
Gariman insurgency: Never accurately assessed
Casualties and losses
Operation Daffodil: Circa 5,000 military casualties Operation Daffodil: Circa 167 killed and 510 wounded
Gariman insurgency: Never accurately assessed

The 2005 Polnitsan War was a ten-week undeclared war fought in early-2005 between the forces of republican North Polnitsa, on the one hand, and a coalition of nations opposed to it on the other. North Polnitsa, supported by Blessed Republic of Elatia, invaded South Polnitsa on Christmas Day of 2004 in an attempt to forcibly unify the divided nation, swiftly defeating all opposition and occupying the country. At the same time, Valgtea mobilised its forces along the border with Garima in an attempt to dissuade Gariman intervention in the Polnitsan situation. In response, the South Polnitsan monarchy and government in exile, as well as the Gariman government, called for international assistance in liberating the occupied country. Over the next several weeks, land forces from Arthurista, Garza and Latium were deployed in Garima, in preparation for a battle to eject the occupying North Polnitsan forces. A four-brigade ‘Multinational Division’, roughly 20,000 in total in manpower terms, was established in order to coordinate the coalition’s ground troops.

After satisfying themselves that further diplomatic efforts were fruitless, the governments of the coalition granted final political sanction for Operation Daffodil. The plan entailed the Multinational Division, backed by the extensive use of air power, breaking through screening North Polnitsan Forces and dashing along the North-South Polnitsa border for the shore of Lake Kupalnista, thereby cutting off and surrounding the entire North Polnitsan Army. Over the course of the 72-hour ground campaign, the four coalition brigades defeated three divisions of North Polnitsan troops and for all intents and purposes destroyed it as a viable military force. North Polnitsan units cut off in the occupied south surrendered en masse to the Multinational Division.The North Polnitsan squadron on Lake Kupalnista was also engaged and destroyed by the Drevstranese Navy.

News of the defeat triggered the North Polnitsan Revolution, which led to the overthrow of the republican one-party government and, in a referendum, reunification with South Polnitsa and the eventual merger with Garima. In Valgtea, the defeat of North Polnitsa constituted a major humiliation and greatly damaged its international prestige, leading to its relative decline in the subsequent ‘Decade of Chaos’, as well as triggering far-reaching military, political and economic reforms.

Historical background

The Valgtean War of the 1940's was for Polnitsa also a civil war. Aided by the Valgtean and Ostrozavan armies, Polnitsan republicans fought the monarchist for domination of the country. When ceasefire was declared, Polnitsan republicans controlled the northern and more populous and industrial part of the country, whereas the Grand Duke's government retained controlled over the south, including the capital city.

In the subsequent decades, both Polnitsan regimes claimed de jure sovereignty over the entirety of pre-war Polnitsa, and neither recognised each other, although the ceasefire more or less held up. Whilst South Polnitsa made little effort at attempting to reunify the country, North Polnitsa developed into a militaristic state, aided by Valgtea, with the declared goal of ultimately 'liberating' the south, by political means if possible, but by force if necessary.

In the years since the 2005 War, historians have debated the immediate causes which led to the North's invasion of the South, basing their arguments on the fragmentary documentary records uncovered from the former North Polnitsan state archives. Some contend that it was planned and executed solely by the North Polnitsan regime, eager for rapid success in order to shore up their political status domestically by fulfilling its 'historical mission', whereas others argue that Valgtean pressure played a dominant role, in an attempt at carrying out Supreme Prophet Frederick the Pious's 'aggressive engagement' policy vis a vis the monarchies and capitalist states of south and west Belisaria. In any event, the current consensus is that it was the North Polnitsan leadership which made the ultimate political decision to execute the invasion.

Invasion of South Polnitsa

The Polnitsan People’s Army

The structure of a Valgtean-style Mechanised Infantry Division

The North Polnitsan military was largely equipped and heavily-influenced by Valgtea. In the four years leading up to the war, a significant Valgtean military aid program was instituted in order to modernise North Polnitsa's armed forces. These included, most significantly, a large increase in North Polnitsa's air defence capabilities, with new SA-17 Grizzly and second hand SA-8 Gecko regiments being formed in order to protect North Polnitsa and its maneouvre units from air attack. Such extensive Valgtean aid in the period shortly preceding the war is often cited to bolster the argument that the invasion of South Polnitsa was premeditated long before 2004 and instigated by Valgtea.

The largest component were the land forces. Out of a population of 3.3 million, the use of three-year conscription terms for both genders enabled North Polnitsa to constitute four Mechanised Infantry Divisions organised on contemporaneous Valgtean lines. Each was a combined arms force of roughly 14,000 personnel, equipped with 210 main battle tanks and 144 artillery pieces. Of the four divisions, the 1st and 2nd Divisions possess more than 85% of their personnel in peacetime, the 3rd was at 50% strength and the 4th at 25%. The latter two divisions were to be augmented by reservists upon a mobilisation order being given by the Ministry of Defence. The total mobilisable strength of North Polnitsa's ground forces was constituted by some 55,000 troops and 840 main battle tanks.

Of the four divisions, the 1st Mechanised Infantry Division was the most deeply modernised, being equipped with the local PS-72/91 variant of the Valgtean PS-72M1 main battle tank. It was an elite force with a high proportion of professional commissioned and warrant officers who were considered 'politically reliable' and ideologically indoctrinated.

The North Polnitsan Air Force was equipped with two squadrons of J-21 Fishbed and one of J-29 Fulcrum fighters, as well as a number of KH-24 Hind and H-17 Hip helicopters. It was also responsible for operating long range surface-to-air missiles intended to defend North Polnitsan territory rather than mobile forces in the field and to that end it was equipped with SA-6 Gainful and SA-17 Grizzly medium range missiles, as well as at least two batteries of SA-10 Grumble long range missiles tasked with protecting the capital region.

A naval squadron was deployed on Lake Kupalnista, consisting of six Model-77 hydrofoil missile boats, with its flagship being a 560-ton Model-70 Corvette. They were operated by Valgtean personnel dressed in Polnitsan uniform and were for all intents and purposes a unit of the Valgtean navy.

South Polnitsan forces

South Polnitsan defence preparation was hampered by a number of factors. Most importantly, it had a population half the size of that of North Polnitsa. Conscription was politically unpopular and as such, although it was on the statute books, in practice it had never been enforced. Accordingly, at full mobilisation strength, the Grand Ducal Army could field as many brigades as the North Polnitsans had divisions.

The full mobilisable strength of the army, including both active and reserve personnel, stood at some 20,000 troops. The standing force consisted of two Mechanised Brigades, each with a battalion of 58 tanks, two battalions of mechanised infantry, a battalion of artillery, a logistics battalion, as well as a company each of reconnaissance, air defence, engineer and signal units. There was also a special forces battalion intended primarily for unconventional warfare and anti-terrorism duties.

Two Territorial Defence Brigades, essentially light infantry units, were constituted using a mixture of ex-regular personnel and civilian part-timers who volunteer to train on nine weekends per year.

The equipment available was largely outdated, comprising of second hand Belfrasian armour, second hand Yisraeli artillery, and a squadron of third hand (by way of Garima) Ghantish fighters.

Essentially, the defence of South Polnitsa was to a significant extent dependent on Gariman assistance. The Grand Ducal government was convinced that North Polnitsa would not initiate a military adventure without first fully mobilising its reserves, which would allow for sufficient strategic forewarning to enable Garima to come to its aid. Accordingly, even though the South Polnitsan military was seriously deficient in both qualitative and quantitative terms, those responsible for defence planning were reasonably satisfied that they were adequate in the circumstances.

The invasion

North Polnitsan APC in occupied South Polnitsa, January 2005

The invasion of South Polnitsa was executed on Christmas Day of 2004. Contrary to previous South Polnitsan expectations, there was no forewarning whatsoever, as North Polnitsa did not mobilise its reserves. Rather, the two ready Mechanised Infantry Divisions were engaged in a military exercise immediately prior to the invasion and it was simply a matter of driving these units, which were already in full battle order, straight across the border.

The invaders met with virtually no resistance in the border regions. Refugees driven from their homes clogged the motorways and greatly hampered South Polnitsan attempts to maneouvre defending forces. In the end, having successfully mobilised one of the Territorial Defence Brigades, the personnel of which was mostly drawn from the capital region, it was decided that this unit, along with the 2nd Mechanised Brigade, would attempt a defence of the capital city. Army General Staff attempted to convince the government to fortify the city and place it into a state of defence, a request which was denied, as it was feared that urban combat would have led to extensive damage to the city and high civilian casualties.

Accordingly, the two brigades met the North Polnitsan 1st Mechanised Infantry Division outside the city along a hastily dug-in line. They were outnumbered and outgunned by a considerable margin, as well as outflanked, so as to be rendered unable to retreat. The defenders were essentially overrun and compelled to surrender in situ.

Nevertheless, the battle outside the city bought the royal family and the government a precious few hours with which to effectuate their evacuation into Garima. During the course of this process, Grand Duke Henry III died of what was publicly stated to be a heart attack, although to this day rumours of an assasination attempt by North Polnitsan special forces on the way to the airport persists.

The 1st Mechanised Brigade, which was on exercise in the western regions of the country, was ordered to fall back into Garima, rather than attempt a futile last stand against the invaders. Whilst a controversial decision at the time, it preserved the brigade intact as a fighting force and it later formed part of the coalition force which ultimately liberated the country.

Within the South Polnitsan capital city of Módbrjóh itself, Baroness Anastasia Duklav, then a captain of special forces, organised a highly effective underground resistance using remnants of the defeated defending forces as well as civilian volunteers. They initiated a campaign of urban guerilla warfare and sabotage against the occupiers, as well as gathered valuable intelligence on Northern troop movements which would be of much utility to the coalition forces gathering in Garima.

From the crossing of the border to occupying South Polnitsa in its entirety, the invasion was completed within 18 hours.

Rebellion in Tungria and Milcenia

Within Garima itself, pro-North Polnitsan elements in the states of Tungria and Milcenia initiated a rebellion against the royal government. In the Duchy of Milcenia, the government fell to a Putsch by the rebels, whilst in Tungria large swathes of the countryside came under insurgent control.

The regular Gariman military was being mobilised to defend the northern border against a threatened Valgtean invasion. Accordingly, the suppression of the rebellion fell to the State Militia of domains further to the south, aided by a unit of volunteers from Ghant led by Bolvar Dain. These forces reacted swiftly and largely cleared the rebels from Milcenia in short order, although those in Tungria melted into the mountainous border region with Valgtea and carried on a prolonged partisan war.

Building a coalition

In order to deter a Gariman intervention in the Polnitsan situation, Valgtea initiated the partial mobilisation of its Southern Group of Forces, which was reinforced up to full combat readiness for a total of more than 330,000 troops in 24 divisions. The Gariman military counter-mobilised in order to forestall what appeared to be a threatened Valgtean invasion. With very limited forces to spare to deal with the Polnitsan situation, on new year's eve, the South Polnitsan government in exile and the Gariman foreign ministry began to contact their international partners in an attempt to solicit assistance. In the event, the main source of reinforcement came from three anti-Valgtean nations which were nevertheless not directly threatened by Valgtean land forces - Arthurista, Garza and Latium.

Arthuristan response

Arthuristan mechanised infantry in Garima

The Arthuristan government reacted swiftly upon receiving the joint request for aid. It was aided by the fact that, although the large-scale deployment of armed forces is as a matter of constitutional convention something which Parliament ought to be consulted about and given the opportunity to give or withhold consent, as a matter of strict law it is a Shield's Prerogative. Accordingly, within 48 hours, it despatched 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, some 700-strong, by air to Garima. This was to a significant extent merely a symbolic deployment, but it signalled the political resolve to not allow international aggression to go unanswered.

Parliament convened on 2 January 2005. The Prime Minister of the newly-elected Labour government, Charles Halliday, declared in his speech that Arthurista would not allow international aggression to go unanswered. His majority was razor-thin, but the motion passed, and Parliament officially granted consent to the large-scale deployment of military forces to Garima.

The land component of the Arthuristan force was built around the Commonwealth Army's 9th Armoured Brigade, consisting of two tank units (the Lord Protector's Life Guards and the Parliamentary Dragoon Guards), a mechanised infantry battalion (the Oldcastle Guards), one of self-propelled artillery (7th Commonwealth Horse Artillery), as well as an engineer company and logistical support. It was reinforced by an armoured cavalry unit (Prince Adrian's Hussars) and an air defence battery. Sufficient quantities of 6-tonne lorries were also made available to provide motorised transport for the 3rd Paras, enabling the latter to act as the brigade's fourth maneouvre battalion. The total strength of the 9th Armoured Brigade, thus reinforced, was approximately 5,500 troops, 90 tanks and 24 self-propelled guns.

The mobilisation of this brigade proved to be difficult, and it would eventually be reported in the press that many other elements of the Arthursta-based Guards Mechanised Division, the 9th Brigade's parent division, had to be cannibalised in order to provide additional manpower and equipment to bring the 9th Brigade up to strength. This led to a significant controversey as to the general state of combat readiness within the Commonwealth Army.

In respect of the air component, the Commonwealth Air Force deployed two squadrons of the new UFC Tempest fighters, supplemented by two squadrons of the legacy Kestrel GR.8. A joint support squadron was also despatched, comprising of Glaucus AEW.3 airborne early warning aircraft, Sentinel JSTAR aircraft, TriStar refuellers and Rivet Joint SIGINT aircraft leased from Belfras.

Finall, the Strike Destroyer HHS Pandora was despatched to the Periclean in order to support coalition forces with long range cruise missile strikes.

Latin and Garzan response

A Latin Aries tank preparing for deployment to Garima

Latium and Garza were the next to respond to the Gariman appeal and despatched a joint expeditionary force. The ground element of this was centred around the Latin Army's Legio IX Ferrata, a mechanised infantry brigade group consisting of a cohort of 58 tanks, two mechanised infantry cohorts, as well as a cohort each of armoured reconaissance forces engineers, self-propelled artillery and logistical support and maintenance troops. Augmenting the Legion was a Garzan army battalion of self-propelled artillery. The total strength of the reinforced Legion stood at approximately 5,500 troops, 58 tanks and 36 self-propelled guns.

The Latin Air Force also committed a total of four fighter squadrons for a total of 48 Aigios Ifrits.

Yisraeli response

Yisrael also contributed forces to the coalition, making available a group of Raven attack helicopters to support the Multinational Division.

The Multinational Division

Tanks of the South Polnitsan Army 1st Mechanised Brigade in exile, Garima

In order to coordinate the force that would ultimately be entrusted with the liberation of South Polnitsa, the headquarters for the Multinational Division was established on 15 January 2005. The commander-in-chief of this force would be a Gariman lieutenant general, Hans Ziegler, although the divisional staff was cobbled together by officers of five different nationalities in a largely improvised fashion. The command language used was Latin. Although there were some initial teething problems, the fact that these forces had in the past exercised with each other and exchanged personnel on at least a semi-regular basis ensured that nobody was too unfamiliar with how others operated and, by the time the ground campaign was ultimately fought, the divisional headquarters had gelled into an effective command team.

The Multinational Division was a four-brigade force. Aside from the Latin legion and the Arthuristan and South Polnitsan brigades mentioned above, the Garimans also contributed their own 13th Panzer Brigade, consisting of some 4,500 troops, 90 tanks and 18 self-propelled guns. In addition, they provided a divisional artillery battalion equipped with Belfrasian TDI Ares multi-launch rocket system.

North Polnitsan deployment

North Polnitsan rocket artillery deploying

North Polnitsa knew from the outset that, despite Valgtea's sabre-rattling across the Valgtean-Gariman border, there was an even chance of a military response from western powers. It also knew that, as Valgtea had previously guaranteed the security and independence of North Polnitsa, an actual invasion of North Polnitsa was highly unlikely. Accordingly, its military preparation was primarily intended prevent the reconquest of South Polnitsa.

The full four-division order of battle of the North Polnitsan army was fully mobilised. Three were deployed in South Polnitsa. The 2nd and 3rd Mechanised Infantry Divisions were arrayed along the western border, with one taking responsibility for the northern sector, the other the southern. The elite 1st Mechanised Infantry Division was held back as an operational reserve. Additional regiments of anti-aircraft missiles were deployed throughout South Polnitsa in an attempt to shield this force from aerial retaliation. Finally, the largely reservist 4th Mechanised Infantry Division was deployed along the border between North Polnitsa and Garima as an insurance policy.

On the eve of the invasion, North Polnitsan forces deployed in South Polnitsa outnumbered the Multinational Division by a margin of more than 2:1 in manpower and tanks, and 4:1 in artillery.

Operation Daffodil

See also: Coalition Order of Battle for Operation Daffodil

Strategic deception

Garima and Polnitsa

The plan for Operation Daffodil ('Unternehmen Narzisse') revolved around a major political constraint, i.e. that coalition forces were forbidden by their respective governments from attacking or crossing into North Polnitsan territory. To that end, the operational plan as finalised called for the Multinational Division to commence the offensive from the Duchy of Milcenia, at the spot where the borders between Garima, North Polnitsa and South Polnitsa meet. The division would then drive across the border and make a high-speed dash to the shores of Lake Kupalnista, thereby cutting off the occupying army from its North Polnitsan homeland and bottling them in South Polnitsa, where they would be forced to surrender or be destroyed in situ.

In order to effectuate this, the Multinational Division was initially assembled in the border between the Electorate of Morinia and south west South Polnitsa. Public pronouncements by the coalition's governments spoke of "ejecting", "repelling" and "pushing back" the invading North Polnitsans. Finally, a pro-North Polnitsan hacker was allowed to obtain what appeared to be a copy of the coalition's operational plan, entailing the Multinational Division entering South Polnitsa from the southwest and wheeling north, pushing the North Polnitsans back across the north-south border.

After mid-February, the Multinational Division was moved north into Milcenia in stages, through the use of returning trains which were ostensibly delivering materiel to the military encampments in Morinia from Milcenia. After the departure of a given unit, a Gariman electronic intelligence team would stay behind to broadcast radio signals simulating the continued presence of a formation headquarter.

The North Polnitsan general staff was entirely convinced that the Multinational Division remained near the south. Accordingly, it shifted the bulk of the 3rd Division to the projected point of breakthrough and used all available engineering units to fortify the area heavily. By contrast, the 2nd Division's sector along the Milcenia frontier, i.e. the actual point of breakthrough, was to remain relatively lightly defended.

Intelligence preparations

Latin Arcanii special forces operating clandestinely in occupied South Polnitsa, January 2005

Throughout February, coalition forces used every means at their disposal in order to dispel the fog of war and gather intelligence on the disposition of the defending forces. Most importantly, aerial decoys were repeatedly sent into South Polnitsan air space to trigger the activation of SAM radars, allowing the pair of leased Rivet Joint signal intelligence aircraft to discover their locations. Once identified, their subsequent movements would be tracked via satellite imagery and in real time using ASTOR aircraft, which were equipped with high-resolution ground-mapping radar. Accordingly, on the eve of the offensive, the coalition could pinpoint the location of most of the North Polnitsan air defence assets in place, which would be attacked and neutralised as priority targets.

On the ground, coalition special forces teams, including Arthuristan SAS, Latin Arcanii and Yisraeli Sayeret infiltrated across the border to set up observation posts within and beyond the Forward Edge of Battle Area, gathering intelligence on the disposition and movement of the defenders. A Gariman Jagdkommando element reached Módbrjóh itself to make contact with the underground set up by Captain Duklav and commenced observation of the headquarters of the occupation forces, which was located within the city.

Air offensive

Gariman Fury flying combat air patrol

The coalition's governments arrived at the consensus that further attempts at diplomcy would not effectuate the peaceful evacuation of North Polnitsan forces from the south. Accordingly, they gave the final and irrevocable sanction for the initiation of military operations on 28 February 2005.

The use of force against North Polnitsan forces in South Polnitsa was commenced at 00:00 hour on 1 March 2005. It began with a salvo of cruise missiles from HHS Pandora, located in the Periclean, which fired a salvo of twelve ACM-1 Cerberus cruise missiles at previously-identified SA-17 SAM batteries located in South Polnitsa. With the most potent air defence weapons destroyed or at least suppressed, coalition air units crossed into South Polnitsan airspace in order to neutralise other North Polnitsan SAM assets within South Polnitsa using anti-radiation missiles and cluster bombs. Having accomplised this task, they turned to the interdiction of other high value military targets, including fuel depots, communication nodes and unit headquarters, on the most part using guided munitions in order to reduce civilian casualties where possible.

At various times during the day, attempts were made by the North Polnitsan Air Force to intervene using its fast jet squadrons. However, the latter were not only significantly outnumbered, but suffered from two major disadvantages. First of all, they were not supported by any airborne early-warning aircraft and relied solely upon ground-control interception. Secondly, and most importantly, whilst their pilots were highly trained in close combat within visual range using heatseeking missiles, they lacked modern long-range, radar guided missiles, having few AA-10 Alamo's and no AA-12 Adder's whatsoever. On the other hand, coalition aircraft flying combat air patrol were universally equipped with AMRAAM's. The net effect was that all North Polnitsan aircraft were tracked the moment they took off from their airfields in North Polnitsa, and eliminated with impunity the very moment they crossed into South Polnitsan airspace. At the end of the first day, 25 North Polnitsan fighters had been destroyed. Coalition aircraft losses amounted to three - one Arthuristan Kestrel was shot down by a North Polnitsan SAM, whilst two Latin Ifrits were destroyed in a mid-air collision.

By midday on 1st March, the coalition had largely attained air supremacy over the theatre of operations. An ultimatum was issued to the North Polnitsan government, demanding the withdrawal of the occupying force, to commence within eight hours. The deadline passed at 20:00 with no response and accordingly the decision was made to send in the Multinational Division on the next day.

Battle of Lake Kupalnista

Battle of Lake Kupalnista
Six Pegasus class hydrofoils underway.jpg
Drevstranesse 'Battlefoils'
Date14:00, 1 March 2005
Location
Lake Kupalnista
Result Coalition victory. North Polnitsan naval squadron destroyed
Belligerents
 North Polnitsa  Drevstran
Commanders and leaders
Polnitsa/Template:Country data Valgtea Captain 1st Rank Gabriel Rasmussen Drevstran Kommodor Arzi Vilmanta
Strength
One missile corvette, six combat hydrofoils Seven combat hydrofoils
Casualties and losses
Seven vessels sunk 1 vessel sunk

The Battle of Lake Kupalnista was fought on the first day of the coalition counteroffensive, between the naval forces of Drevstran and North Polnitsa on Lake Kupalnista.

The North Polnitsans had established a naval base at the port town of Kernistyy, on the South Polnistan coast. A provisional dockyard was under construction, as well as a fuel depot. The entire North Polnistan naval squadron had been moored there in anticipation of supporting the army's military operations against the South Polnitsan partisans and, potentially, the threatened coalition invasion.

Drevstran had formed part of the coalition and, accordingly, the North Polnitsan squadron was prepared for action against the Drevstranese. However, when a trio of the latter's Pegasus-class hydrofoils raided Kernistyy, it came as a surprise. Firing a salvo of 24 missiles at the relatively close range of 30km, in order to minimise the North Polnitsan's response time, the Drevstranese munitions accurately struck various pre-selected targets, including the new fuel depot, which was set ablaze.

Having expended its missiles, the Drevstranese hyrofoils retreated in haste. The entire North Polnitsan squadrons weighed anchor to give chase. Whilst the Drevstranese boats were slower, their decision to approach so close to the shore now played them false as the North Polnitsans locked on with their radars. A salvo of Styx missiles were fired by the North Polnitsan hydrofoils, followed by Sirens from the flagship corvette. These missiles were of an obsolete design, so the trio of Drevstranese boats made full use of its arsenal of electronic countermeasures and chaffs in an attempt to confuse their homing systems. In the event, most veered harmlessly of course, and two were shot down by Drevstranese 76mm guns. However, the sheer density of incoming fire meant that one of the Drevstranese boats was struck and sunk.

However, unbeknownst to the North Polnitsans, the course of the Drevstranese retreat had been plotted in such a way that it led the pursuing ships close to a cluster of islets. Hiding within the radar clutter, invisible to North Polnitsan sensors, were a further quartet of Drevstranese hydrofoils. With the enemy well within range at 40km, they fired a salvo of 32 missiles. The North Polnitsans' electronic warfare capabilities were as old as their missiles. Four Drevstranese missiles lost track. Three were shot down by AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The remainder struck home, and every North Polnitsan boat was hit. Most were sunk immediately, some with all hands, although two, including the corvette, limped on and remained for the time being afloat. The Drevstranese squadron approached to complete their destruction with gunfire. The entirety of North Polnitsan naval capability had been eliminated.

Battle of Phase Line Foxtrot

Battle of Phase Line Foxtrot
Battle of Phase Line Foxtrot.png
A map of the battle
Date04:00 to 07:00, 2 March 2005
Location
Demensky, Polnitsa
Result Coalition victory. North Polnitsan 2nd Mechanised Infantry Division severed in two.
Belligerents
 North Polnitsa
Forces: Tank Regiment and 2nd Mechanised Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Mechanised Infantry Division
 Arthurista
Forces: 9th Armoured Brigade (reinforced)
Commanders and leaders
Polnitsa Major General Petyr Kerens Arthurista Brigadier Susan de Redmayne
Strength
8,000 4,500
Casualties and losses
Circa 300 KIA, 700 WIA, 3,000 POW 12 KIA, 37 WIA

The Multinational Division crossed the border at 00:30 hours of 2 March 2004. Immediately preceding the ground offensive, HHS Pandora fired another salvo of cruise missiles, this time targeting three enemy divisional headquarters which had previously been identified through the use of signal intelligence. Although this attack failed to 'decapitate' the enemy formations, it disrupted their command and control just when directions from higher echelons were most needed.

The initial goal of the Multinational Division was to reach and eliminate the opposition situated on Phase Line Foxtrot, an imaginary north-south line drawn on the operational map upon which many of the main elements of the North Polnitsan 2nd Mechanised Infantry Division were located. The Commonwealth 9th Armoured Brigade led the advance. Its objective was the village of Demensky, which sits astride Highway 15 leading east.

The commander of the 2nd Mechanised Infantry Division recognised the strategic value of the village and had garrisoned it with his 2nd Mechanised Infantry Regiment. Upon hearing of the coalition advance, he immediately reinforced it with his Tank Regiment, which was located nearby and as such the movement did not attract significant attention from coalition fighters. After his redeployment, some 50% of his division was now concentrated in or near the village. He dug in his armoured vehicles along a north-south axis, just behind a ridge, such that they were on its reverse slope. The effect he hoped to achieve was to mask his combat vehicles from direct fire, whereas the attackers would be forced to climb and then crest the ridge, allowing his tanks to destroy them at close range as they appeared above the skyline.

The 9th Armoured Brigade was task organised into four combined arms battlegroups. The Lord Protectors Horse Guards and Parliamentary Dragoon Guards, both armoured units, each gave up one squadron of tanks and in turn received a company of mechanised infantry from the Oldcastle Guards. These two battlegroups made a frontal advance abreast towards the ridge. The Oldcastle Guards, which detached two of its infantry companies, but received two squadrons of tanks in return, was to loop to the north in an attempt to outflank the defenders, whereas the 3 PARA stood in reserve, ready to storm the village.

Arthuristan armour in South Polnitsa

The battle was preceded by an intense artillery duel. North Polnitsan regimental and divisional artillery outnumbered that available to the 9th Armoured Brigade many times over. However, they were primarily deployed to fire on pre-registered approaches had difficulties in shifting fire to account for rapidly changing battlefield circumstances. On the other hand, coalition artillery had access to highly accurate counterbattery radars, allowing them to pinpoint the origin of incoming artillery fire and retaliate. They were also greatly assisted by close air support from CAF Kestrel jump jets and Yisrael helicopter gunships which also contributed to suppressing the opposing North Polnitsan artillery.

The commander of the 9th Armoured Brigade knew, from drone reconaissance, that the enemy were dug in on the reverse slope. Accordingly, she utilised the brigade's Vesper NLOS missile, which had a non-line of sight firing range of 25 km, to target enemy vehicles located behind the ridge. One by one, North Polnitsan tanks were picked off, without the latter being able to strike a single blow in retaliation. Recognising that his position was untenable, the North Polnitsan commander decided upon what he thought was the least bad of all of his options, namely to counterattack.

As the two Dragoon Guard units was about to climb the ridge's forward slope, they were amazed to see more than 100 North Polnitsan armoured vehicles - both PS-72M1 tanks and APC's, crest the ridge and charge downhill at top speed. Arthuristan Boudicca tank crews soon found themselves in a furious close-range, night time melee in the dark.

A number of thin-skinned Arthuristan vehicles, including two Claymore Infantry Fighting Vehicles and one Scimitar tankette were knocked out. However, Arthuristan tanks retained the significant advantage conferred by their thermal imaging sights, which the North Polnitans lacked, and within twenty minutes had driven the North Polnitsans into retreat.

Dawn revealed the Arthuristan dragoons amidst a field dotted with burning North Polnitsan vehicles, having suffered virtually no losses during the encounter but inflicting crippling damage in return. The enemy were demoralised and in disarray. Determined to maintain the momentum of the advance, the 9th Brigade's commander called up 3 PARA from the reserve and launched a concentric advance upon the enemy. Supported by armour, the paratroopers fixed bayonets and stormed the village by close assault. Unable to retreat, the surviving North Polnitsans largely surrendered.

'The Sickle Cut'

Wreckage of North Polnitsan PS-72 after the war in May 2005

The Battle of Phase Line Foxtrot had cut the North Polnitsan 2nd Mechanised Infantry Division in half and virtually destroyed two of its four regiments. Having made the breakthrough against enemy screening forces, the Multinational Division commenced the maneouvre known to historians as 'the Sickle Cut' ('Sichelschnitt') or 'the Dash to the Lake' ('Wettlauf zum See'), with the Division advancing at top speed along the parallel Highways 15 and 16 along the North-South Polnitsan border towards Lake Kupalnista, with the intent of cutting off the entire North Polnitsan occupying army from its homeland.

Having broken through the 2nd Mechanised Infantry Division and rendered it combat ineffective, the Multinational Division met with virtually no viable opposition during its high speed drive. Along the way, South Polnitsan resistance fighters assisted the coalition by reoccupying towns, giving directions, providing fuel, guarding prisoners and conducting reconaissance.

The North Polnitsan 3rd Mechanised Infantry Division, which was stationed in the southwest of South Polnitsa in anticipation of a coalition advance from that direction, found itself unable to intervene. On multiple occassions, its commander attempted to maneouvre forces northwards to counterattack the Multinational Division along its route of advance. However, attempts by its units to depart from their camouflaged and dug-in sites and move in the open were inevitably pounced on by coalition aircraft, which attacked every moving column of armoured vehicles it could identify. Having lost a considerable portion of its strength to air attacks, the 3rd Division was forced to stay and watch impotently as coalition forces continued its advance towards the lake.

Marcus prepares to escape the trap

By the dawn of 3rd March 2005, it was clear that the only remaining viable fighting force North Polnitsa had left in South Polnitsa was the 1st Mechanised Infantry Division stationed as a strategic reserve in the east of the country. It was a well-trained elite force, equipped with the most modern armaments available to South Polnitsa, including tanks equipped with explosive reactive armour and thermal imaging sight. Its divisional military advisor was Colonel Marcus Sigurdson, the son of the Valgtean Supreme Prophet, and for all intents and purposes the division’s de facto commander.

By this point in time, the coalition’s strategy was clear to all concerned. Marcus accordingly took immediate steps to ensure the survival of his force which, given the circumstances, was to evacuate the country and retreat northwards.

His first port of call was the commander of the 3rd Mechanised Infantry Division, which was still located in the south and unable to intervene. He urged him to continue his efforts to move northwards towards the Multinational Division’s line of advance. Marcus knew that such efforts were doomed to failure, but they would attract the full attention of the coalition’s airpower, which would be compelled to defend the Multinational Division’s southern flank.

Whilst this was going on, Marcus gathered every remaining anti-air asset within his vicinity, from AA guns and MANPAD companies to batteries of SA-6, SA-8 and SA-17 missiles, including the full complement of his regimental and divisional air defence units. He arrayed them in a screen running along a north-south axis to shield his division’s line of retreat. He knew that it was only a matter of time before coalition SEAD strikes would destroy it completely. However, if he could buy a further few hours, wherein the coalition’s aircraft was concentrated on destroying his tenuous SAM belt rather than on his division, his tanks could make a run for it along Highway 9, which ran north along the coast of Lake Kupalnista.

Battle of Hill 198

Battle of Hill 198
Battle of Hill 198.png
A map of the battle
Date06:00 to 15:30, 4 March 2005
Location
Stenya Province, Polnitsa
Result Decisive coalition victory. North Polnitsan army trapped.
Belligerents
 North Polnitsa
Forces: 1st Mechanised Infantry Division
 Latium
Forces: 5th Cohors Catafractarius Battlegroup, 11th Cohors Peditum Mechanicum Battlegroup
Commanders and leaders
Polnitsa/Template:Country data Valgtea Colonel Marcus Sigurdsson Latium Legate Theodotus Porsena
Strength
12,000 1,400
Casualties and losses
Circa 2,000+ killed and wounded, 4,000+ POW 84 KIA, 238 WIA

Marcus’s plan initially worked as planned. A SAM belt, however thin, was successfully established, and for the subsequent few hours the coalition’s air assets had to concentrate on suppressing it so as to enable them to resume the destruction of the remaining North Polnitsans. Whilst this was going on, the 1st Mechanised Infantry Division began to move north in a column stretching kilometres along Highway 9, up the coast of Lake Kupalnista, relatively free from having to worry about coalition air attacks.

However, unbeknownst to him, the leading elements of the Multinational Division had already sealed the trap. At 02:30 of 4 March, reconnaissance units from the Legio IX Ferrata had crossed Highway 9 and arrived at Lake Kupalnista. The way home for 1st Mechanised Infantry Division had been cut off.

The Legate of Legio IX knew from drone reconaissance that Marcus was approaching from the south. However, the Multinational Division was itself stretched very thinly along its path of advance, and could not concentrate to deal with the incoming threat. Accordingly, he deployed what units he had available in an attempt to stem Marcus’s escape attempt.

He had on hand a pair of battlegroups - the 5 Cohors Catafractarius, which was an armoured battalion, and 11 Cohors Peditum Mechanicum, a mechanised infantry battalion. He had task-organised them such that the former gave up two of its four tank centuries to the latter, and in turn gained a mechanised infantry century. Vice versa, the latter had detached one of its three mechanised infantry centuries but gained a tank century.

The ground which he chose was Hill 198, of which there were two low rises of roughly 198 metres in elevation, one each lying east and west of Highway 9, which passes in the ‘saddle’ between the peaks. On the more open 198 East, the Legate deployed the more tank-heavy 5 Cohors battlegroup, whereas on the more wooded 198 West he placed the more infantry-heavy 11 Cohors battlegroup. Both units were arrayed in the form of perimeters prepared for all-round defence.

Marcus had ridden with his division’s forward detachment and as such was quickly alerted to the presence of the pair of cohorts which barred the way. He realised that he had to resume the movement north as quickly as he could, because any moment now the coalition’s fighters could complete the destruction of his SAM belt and turn its full attention to his division, 14,000 strong, which at that point was stretched out for kilometres along Highway 9. He also recognised the fact that the two cohorts were the only coalition force barring his way and, if he could break through, then there was nothing which could stop him from reaching the border and safety.

Accordingly, he followed the only course of action available in the circumstances, which was to keep the division moving and to storm the hills. Marcus positioned himself and his field HQ below the rise, at the head of the column, and there he organised units as they arrived into improvised tactical groups, and flung them up the hills at the waiting Latins.

Over the subsequent hours, as more than 150 North Polnitsan artillery pieces bombarded the rises, wave after wave of tanks, APC’s and riflemen with bayonets fixed attempted to assault the Latin-held hilltops. Each succeeding wave was destroyed, only to be replaced by other formations as units from the North Polnitsan divisional column continued to arrive, creating what a historian would later call ‘a conveyor belt of death’.

While the storming parties tried to take the hills, non-combat elements of the North Polnitsan division - the logistics, maintenance, signal and engineer units, attempted to drive their unarmoured trucks through the saddle and past the hills.

The coalition’s response was rapid. Whilst the Latin cohorts fought for their very survival on the hills, every artillery battery within range turned their barrels in the direction of the battlefield, firing in direct support of the Latins, or to suppress the enemy artillery, or to scatter mines and cluster bomblets amongst the traffic jam of vehicles trying to force their way past the saddle. The lethality of coalition artillery upon North Polnitsan armoured vehicles was greatly enhanced by the plethora of 'assault breaker' weapons previously developed to tackle large Valgtean armoured formations, including cluster bomblets, artillery-scattered mines, and shell-delivered self-homing anti-tank submunitions, as well as the liberal use of 'time on target salvoes.

Gariman artillery firing in support of Hill 198 West

Coalition shells also rained down on the snaking column of vehicles leading up to the saddle, or the traffic jam at the saddle itself. Soon, whole swathes of the highway were covered with the flaming remains of trucks. Anticipating this problem, Marcus had seeded the column with bulldozers, enabling him to simply shove wrecked vehicles off the road and resume the advance, often with the screaming and wounded occupants of the vehicles still within them. The division’s medics were fully occupied with supporting the assaults on the hills and nothing could be spared for those useless for this endeavour. Unwounded and ‘walking wounded’ survivors of these rear-area units with their trucks destroyed were issued with rifles and RPG’s taken from the dead and instructed to follow the combat units up the hill.

Whilst this was going on, assault waves of tanks and infantry continued to move up the hills, past the dead bodies and burnt out hulks left behind by previous attempts. In every lull, Latin tanks and infantry platoons shared out their remaining ammunition and water, both of which were dwindling rapidly as the hours wore on.

By 13:00 hours, it was clear that the battle had reached its crisis point. Both cohort battlegroups had virtually run out of ammunition. The 11 Cohors Peditum Mechanicum had practically been shoved off its hill, a small portion of which it clung onto by the fingernails. To its west, the 5 Cohors, running desperately short of ammunition, resorted to dealing with unsupported parties of enemy infantry by sending pairs of tanks out of the perimeter to crush them beneath their tracks.

In one well-known incident, a North Polnitsian PS-72/91 picked its way up a sheltered rise and suddenly found itself within one metre of a Latin Aries. Having surprised each other, both tank crews desperately attempted to transverse their turret to bring their guns to bear. The Latin crew won the race, firing off a tungsten-cored APFSDS round to knock out the North Polnitsan tank. However, the latter exploded with such violence that the Latin tank was set on fire, which the on-board fire suppression system could not put out. The tank commander ordered the crew to evacuate, which they did just in time before their tank, too, exploded. The uninjured crew took up rifles and joined the infantry in the trenches. The tank driver would be awarded a medal for bayonetting an enemy major later in the battle.

Below the hills, large elements of the North Polnitsan division, in vehicles or on foot, were escaping past the saddle. Coalition artillery units were finding themselves increasingly unable to intervene, having fired so many rounds that they had far outstripped their logistical tails' ability to deliver ammunition.

However, at this point in time, two factors saved the cohorts from certain destruction.

First of all, coalition air assets began to bypass the SAM screen, which still clung on tenaciously, by flying south, then east, over Lake Kupalnista, before looping back west to launch stand-off munitions at the North Polnitsan divisional column. They used JSOW glide bombs liberally to sow the whole length of the North Polnitsan column with cluster bomblets. Scorpion missiles were also used to devastating effect on enemy armour.

Secondly, around 14:30, second echelon elements of the Multinational Division had finally begun to arrive to relieve the two cohorts. The first to reach the battlefield was the 13 Cohors Peditum Mechanicum, whose counterattack in the nick of time restored the situation on Hill 198 West. The second unit was the Armoured Battalion of the South Polnitsan 1st Mechanised Brigade, which enthusiastically took the opportunity to exact revenge for the occupation of their country. They were deployed to reinforce Hill 198 East.

The Gariman Panzerbrigade 13 arrived in force to secure the battlefield at 15:30. By then, the battle was largely over.

It has been calculated that between 50-65% of the 1st Mechanised Infantry Division’s manpower managed to run the gauntlet and reach the border. However, they did so largely on foot and devoid of their weapons or vehicles. In particular, the vast majority of the division’s tanks, APC’s and artillery pieces had been destroyed or abandoned, and its combat personnel (as opposed to rear-services personnel) killed in action. For all intents and purposes, the best of the four divisions in the North Polnitsan military had been destroyed as a fighting formation. Of those who failed to escape, most had no alternative but to surrender to coalition forces.

Wrecked and burning North Polnitsan vehicles littered the countryside for kilometres around Hill 198

Of the 167 KIA sustained by the Multinational Division over the course of the entire three-day ground war, more than half were inflicted during the course of this single battle. Amongst the most prominent casualties was Prince Ferdinand of Garza, who served with the Garzan contingent and was present on Hill 198 West with the headquarters of the 11 Cohors when it came under artillery fire.

Two hours after the battle, Lieutenant General Hans Ziegler, commander-in-chief of the coalition's ground forces inspected the battlefield. In his memoir, he would describe the scene in harrowing terms:

"Scattered in dense masses, kilometre upon kilometre as far as the eye could see, in the fields, on the hillsides, on the Autobahn, were the blackened remains of burnt-out vehicles - tanks, trucks, APC's, jeeps, even ambulances, all jumbled together in tangled heaps. Here and there were the charred remains of a North Polnitsan. Some still had their rifles, having fallen whilst advancing on his foe. Others, sans weapon or helmet, were killed whilst fleeing for their lives on foot. Others still never had the opportunity to escape their doomed vehicles and could only sit, trapped, as fire consumed them. The once verdant and wooded slopes of Hill 198 were no more. A day's worth of artillery fire had seen to that. All that remained now were the stubs and splinters of what were once trees, remorselessly blasted apart by the belligerents' unrelenting artillery fire."

Three hours after the battle, the 3rd Mechanised Infantry Division and the remnants of the 2nd Division, realising that they had been completely cut off from North Polnitsa, surrendered to coalition forces.

At 21:00, the North Polnitsan government asked for a ceasefire, which was provisionally granted.

Aftermath

The North Polnitsan Revolution

Further consequences for Polnitsa

Denouement in Valgtea