Penny had a feeling of deja vu as climbed the stairs to the top of the terminal building. Her small party of four were first up on the roof and were to be followed by Javelin, NLAW and Switch Blade drone teams who would arrive in five and six-person groups. Steven had set up his control point on the roof of the multi-storey car park where he had parked two comms vans well separated at either end. The vans were unmanned and could be sacrificed, if necessary. He was hunkered down ready to lead a six-man squad into the control tower where he expected to be able to gain control easily as three of the five air traffic controllers on duty were Resistance members and they were to leave the access door unlocked.
From the control tower, he would have the perfect view of the airport and he would be able to talk to his various teams via the command net he had set up. The vans would relay the net to the other three nets at the heights over the naval dockyard, the civil port and on the motorway. Once the first Tomahawk stuck it was the trigger for the first of the ground teams to go in taking over the terminal building and the airport police station. He didn’t expect much resistance on the civil side of the airport. It was the Luftwaffe side that could put up a fight. The trick was to hit them hard and fast with the Javelins, NLAW’s and Switch Blades forcing them to keep their heads down while his ground attack got over the runway and into them.
On HMS Agamemnon Commander Powderham had loaded all six of his torpedo tubes with Tomahawk cruise missiles and they were all attached to the computers by umbilicals getting their target information downloaded to their onboard computers. Powderham had no idea of the actual targets. He knew his first six birds were to fire off at 10-second intervals and that his artificers had installed these six units with laser-homing heads so someone was on the ground out there with laser designators for a precision strike. He also knew that the birds were all to fly slightly different routes so that the last launch was to catch up as closely as possible with the first so that they all hit at 03:25. For this reason the targeting computers had control of the launch, he simply had to con the ship to the exact launch spot that was confirmed by GPS.
Penny had her sniper rifle set up and through the infrared scope had been watching a maintenance crew working on one of the big transport helicopters. Her spotter confirmed that their three laser designators were on their targets. Irena also confirmed her laser designators and that she was in position. Jinnie gave a single codeword to Steven who double-clicked his mike in acknowledgement. Jinnie decided that it was pointless watching the maintenance crew once hit by a missile, they would all be out of commission so she swung her rifle onto a lit window in what looked like an office. Focusing her scope she could see someone at a desk working. She had no idea if it was a duty officer or a clerk but whoever he was he would have a phone in that office so he would be better taken out. She glanced at her watch, 03:14.
At almost exactly the same moment the sixth Tomahawk missile was launched by Agamemnon’s computer and reported that its motor had fired up and its self-checks were all green. The flight of six were moving at 550 mph at ten feet over the calm sea making their turns at their programmed waypoints. Commander Powderham had given the order to reload with five more Tomahawks and one Spearfish. He was much happier with a Spearfish loaded, at least he had some defence if located. The boat was underway, making a 35 knots underwater sprint away from the launch point to its next launch point. The five cruise missiles were linked to the computer and programmed in record time.
Second Lieutenant Jones was delighted that the sea was calm, he wasn’t the best of sailors and the flat-bottomed tank landing ship was not a good ride in poor weather. They were in a small group with another tank landing ship and several troop transports which were busy transferring troops to landing craft. Frigates and destroyers were whizzing around them and the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was busy launching F-35s and helicopters. The helicopters were a mix of AEW and anti-submarine types and were busy protecting the carrier. As he watched, Jones saw a number of the landing craft switch from their holding pattern and start their fast run in the port. Suddenly the coast lit up with explosions that appeared to be coming from around the headland from the port. The captain, standing next to Joey, said, “That’s the naval dockyard being hammered. The F-35s are taking out the ships in the port.”
Penny had her sights on the man in the office and as the first Tomahawk whistled across the airfield and the plane in the shelter exploded she pulled the trigger, worked the mechanism and fired again at the body that had slumped over the desk. As she scanned for targets of opportunity the other five fast jets erupted in sheets of flame. One by one the line of helicopters disappeared in explosion after explosion. Then a missile streaked from a launcher close to her on the roof and an explosion came from what she assumed was an anti-aircraft position. The first missile was followed by many more and further gun and missile anti-aircraft positions went up in smoke. Over the net she heard, “Cobra One, objective secured,” and knew that the terminal building was in their hands, it was swiftly followed by “Cobra Five, objective secured,” and that was Steven in the control tower.
Penny could hear Irena firing but couldn’t see what she was shooting at. As she continued looking for targets she spotted a group of six in Luftwaffe uniform emerge from a hanger, five carried rifles and one a pistol who was slightly behind. Without hesitation she shot the man with the pistol who went down and didn’t move. She then shot the most advanced of the five carrying rifles. He too fell but was dragged behind a wrecked helicopter before she could fire again. The ground force was on them seconds later and Penny saw the five being plasticuffed while the rifleman she had shot had a “D” for dead spray painted on him ensuring no more time was wasted on him. A short gun battle took place as the Resistance took the offices and hangers but it was only a couple of minutes before the message came, “Cobra 3, all objectives secure”.
Over at the naval dockyard the swarm of Switch Blade drones were up high hovering undetected over the antiaircraft defences. On the stroke of 03:25 they fell vertically on the emplacements. The air defences never knew what hit them. As Graham talked to the RAF controller on the carrier to tell him the dockyard defences were down, a wave of six Javelins powered into the barrack block lower windows. They exploded within seconds of each other and the building collapsed with many Germans inside. The carrier-based aircraft raced in over the sea before popping up and lobbing their laser-guided Paveway IV bombs at the dockyard. The bombs acquired the laser signals that had been placed on the ships, adjusted their attitude and steered straight into the ships. Those that were not sunk were rendered inoperable.
Graham ordered the laser designators onto the ammunition bunkers and informed the controller they were ready for the bunker busters. The F-35 came in at high level this time armed with GBU 28 Paveway 3 2000lb bombs with special penetrator warheads. This time the bomb’s momentum when dropped from height penetrated the bunkers and the delayed fuse blew the bunkers to pieces. Graham and his group were delighted. They were some distance from the explosions as even where they were the ground shock and the flash and bang were considerable. Graham gave the order for his ground forces to move in to mop up and announced on the net, “Boa reporting stage one successful, moving to stage two.” He then switched back to the RAF controller and thanked him for their efforts and stood down the backup aircraft that were circulating in case they were still needed.
Trooper Fenton took his cue from the first explosion in the dockyard and led his first section to the port gate which swung open as they approached and they were waved through by the guard. Further sections followed at 90-second intervals and headed in various directions to the piers and berths. At the same time, half a squad headed for the automated lighthouse on the headland, they didn’t want it being turned off remotely so they were going to switch it to manual operation powered from its standby generator.
David split his section into three parts and went on the hunt for the three guard pair. The first pair were found in the radio room and surrendered without a fight and were plasticuffed to an old steel radiator pipe in the corner and a guard left. The second pair were more alert and were actually doing what they were supposed to be doing patrolling in front of the custom’s warehouse. David had trained some of his section in unarmed combat and he watched as two of them crept up on them from behind and got them in strangleholds before other members of the subgroup moved in, disarmed them and they too were plasticuffed and left attached to a steel staircase. The final pair were found leaning against a wall smoking, while watching the F-35s tossing their bombs into the dockyard. They were easily surprised, disarmed and the final pair were plasticuffed.
Tropper Fenton radioed the message, “Mamba One reporting target secure and guide lights established.” He then switched channels to the Commando’s network and told them that the port was secure for an unopposed landing and was told the first landing craft was three minutes out. Dave scanned the sea with his infrared binoculars and picked up the first craft. He warned his men who stood at the top of numerous stone steps, which were built into the quayside, ready to catch heaving lines and hold the ropes while the Commandos charged up the steps.
The landing craft powered to their appointed steps and they discharged their complement of Commandos in what seemed like moments. They then moved away only to be immediately replaced by a fresh craft, while the first boats were already on their way back out to the troop ships. The Commandos were running to take up defensive positions and two gangs were already manning the ro-ro docks. As Dave watched the operation he became aware of a captain approaching him and he saluted. The captain said, “Excellent job trooper, I have just given the OK for the tank landing ships to come in. The fourth wave of landing craft are just leaving the mother ships with some heavy equipment and my specialists are readying the quayside cranes. My men report they have found half a dozen plasticuffed Germans, your work I assume.”
Steven was now ensconced in the control tower and having given the word that the airport was in his control was watching the air traffic radar for the incoming helicopters, he was taken by surprise when the first Puma skimmed in under the radar, descended onto the apron and 20 Paratroopers emerged and took up defensive positions. As Steven watched, nine more Pumas dropped off their Paras and were off back to the helicopter carrier just over the horizon in the bay of Trieste. The next in were ten Chinooks which were carrying air defence systems slung under them, they dropped until the load came off as it placed the missile launchers gently on the runway and then released the slings that dropped to the ground.
Steven watched as the Paras manoeuvred the multiple StarStreak launchers into position. Steven was aware that if the Germans sent high-flying attack aircraft against them StarStreak was only good to about 15,000 ft but it was said to be able to take out incoming laser-guided bombs and rockets. From the corner of his eye he spotted three men heading toward the tower; an officer and two NCOs. They appeared to be a major and two corporals. The major explained he and his two men were trained to control military air traffic and would take over from the civilians while the transport aircraft started to bring in heavier equipment. He explained that the really heavy equipment was to come ashore at the docks but would take a while to get to them and they were vulnerable until it did.
While talking, Steven got a message over the Resistance’s radio net. It was Maya, she had a scout out 5km down the motorway and a German armoured column was on its way. She was ready for it. The major said, “I don’t think the tanks, self-propelled Howitzers or multiple launch rockets will be ashore yet and our Howitzers on the airport don’t have sufficient range, but I could call in a fast jet strike from the carriers.” Steven replied, “Maya’s group have arranged and trained for an ambush of just this type. They are dug in either side of the motorway and ready to blow bridges to trap them and attack them with Javelins, NLAWs, Switch Blade drones and two heavy calibre machine guns. I think we should let them get on with it, but be ready to bring in support if necessary.”
Maya decided that she was only going to blow the bridges if she had too. She didn’t want to put the motorway out of use for a long period. If she could take out armoured vehicles at the top and tail of the column they could trap it and work it over. The dead German vehicles could be cleared far faster than bridges could be rebuilt. It was just getting light when she saw the headlights of the column. She had issued orders as to whom should hit what vehicle. The teams to hit the first three and last three vehicles were nominated to NLAWs teams. Maya was aware of the statistics that NLAW attacks were successful 90% of the time after one hours training. Her teams had a lot more than one hours training so she hoped for a much better hit rate. But the NLAW was a simple fire-and-forget weapon and the teams all had several rounds available to them in their disposable launchers.
Depending on how many armoured vehicles were in the column, Maya also had Javelin teams ready again with additional missiles. The preference was the NLAW, it was cheaper, and equally effective as the Javelin, but it had a shorter range so there was place for both systems. The very cheap drones were allocated the soft-skinned vehicles and the heavy machine guns were for soldiers that managed to actually get dismounted. Finally, there were rifle teams to take out the stragglers who refused to surrender.
With the lead armoured fighting vehicles moving into the kill zone, Maya ordered five Switch Blades to launch. They had an endurance of 30 minutes and were so small and quiet they could hover high above the column undetected and return live TV pictures to operator’s screens. Maya’s observers told her there were ten AFVs at the head of the column, they were followed by an equal number of Leopard tanks. Then came the APCs, and what appeared to be two communication/command versions of the armoured vehicles, identified by each having four tall whip aerials. Then came around 20 trucks, with five or six pulling towed field guns and finally some more AFVs protecting the column’s rear. Maya allocated teams to take out the command vehicles immediately the first and last AFVs were hit. She then put up more Switch Blades so that there were more of them than there were trucks.
The first AFVs rumbled on down the middle lane of the motorway at a fairly high speed clearly in a hurry to get to the airport and unaware of the possibility of being attacked. Maya had told her teams she would wait until the convoy was well into the trap before issuing the fire order. She was waiting until the lead vehicle was 50 metres from the bridge, an innocuous plastic carrier bag on the Armco gave her the mark, before saying, “Lead teams fire,” over the net.
From her elevated position at the top of the embankment, near the head of the columns, she saw smoke trails from missiles close in on the first three AFVs, fly over them and send a blast downward into their more lightly protected top armour. One swerved into a motorway sign blocking a carriageway and billowed smoke. The second also billowed smoke and crashed into the wreckage of the first, blocking the two-lane motorway, while the third exploded in a sheet of flame when ammunition went off. The message came in from the rear of the column, one missile had failed to stop its target, but the backup missile did.
With the column halted, Maya give the order to the rest of the teams to open fire. She watched with huge satisfaction as vehicle after vehicle was eliminated. Several tanks tried to crash through the central barrier onto the opposite carriageway but they faired no better and were killed by the NLAWs. The Switch Blades crashed into the canvas-backed trucks making short work of them. Occasionally a few troops tried to dismount but the machine guns cut them down. The whole battle lasted no more than five minutes before the order to cease fire was issued.
Joey Jones was on deck as the tank landing ship edged into the ro-ro berth guided by Commandos. As he saw the ramp moving he headed for his tank. His tank was the last of his squadron of 18. The first nine were to guard the city, port and naval dockyards. His half of the section was to dash at top speed to the airport and give it some heavy ground protection until the RAF regiment arrived with some heavy equipment. The tanks in front of him were off even faster than he dreamed to be possible. He was pleased to see the AFCs to run reconnaissance in front of his command were lined up on the dock with his tanks. Joey reported over the regimental net that Bravo Group were ready to move and told to proceed as per orders.
They had hardly got out of the port gate when the radioman told Joey over the tank’s internal comms that the Resistance was taking on a German armoured column on the motorway heading for the airport. Joey wondered how well-armed the Resistance were and would they be able to hold the Germans up long enough for him to get between them and the airport? As they bounced along he checked the map and the satellite photos for a good ambush point he might be able to get to. It was less than ten minutes later when his radioman was back on the net saying, “Sir, the Resistance is reporting that they have totally destroyed the column.”
The airport was amazingly busy. As the sun came up Penny watched the transport planes coming in to land. It was mostly a stream of Hercules and Globemasters bringing in equipment and Voyagers bringing in troops. Many of the aircraft were RAF but she also saw Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, United States, Canadian and French markings. Light armoured vehicles and their operators were first, then two Sky Sabre systems emerged from a pair of Globemasters. The missile launcher from one system headed to one end of the runway and the other to the opposite end. The radar units headed off in one direction and the control unit in another. Penny had read that the 24 anti-aircraft missile units were capable of targeting 24 aircraft at the same time, the radar could track more, but the computers in the control unit sorted out priorities. In addition, the un-jammable digital links between the three units in a system could be 15km apart. She suddenly released that this was going to be an important forward base when she saw an ‘Envoy IV’ land and some top brass come down the steps.
Before eight o’clock there must have been 2,000 troops on the ground and the tanks had arrived, but quickly dispersed to defensive positions around the site. The Royal Engineers had arrived with backhoes, bulldozers, flat beds, tippers etc. They were rapidly clearing the wreckage of aircraft, filling in potholes and refurbishing the hardened aircraft shelters with more reinforced concrete. To the shelters they added new blast doors, the sections of which were delivered from the port and welded together. A few minutes later Penny and the forces on the roofs of the terminal and car park were relieved by regular troops who installed StarStreak multiple launchers on each.
Penny met Steven in the departures hall and was delighted to see that the squaddies had broken into one of the restaurants where bacon sandwiches and coffee were available to all comers. The pair sat at one of the restaurant tables watching a steady stream of soldiers grabbing hot food. Steven was still listening to the command net and told her that the town was secure. Transport ships were queueing up to enter the port and the first F-35As would be landing shortly together with Apache helicopters. The military had a firm foothold and, as more and more equipment and men were being landed, were starting to push out south towards Pula, east to Ljubljana and north to meet the Italians who had crossed the border at Gorizia and several points north.
In Chapter 29 – Later on D-Day.
© WorthingGooner 2023