Operation: Vigilant Aegis

With the support of the Council, the Byzantine League could now engage in its first joint military operation. The protection of the Kurdish people and other threatened ethnic minorities in Iraq. With the instructions of the mandate provided to her, the Athenian admiral in charge of the Supreme Allied Command considered the forces at her disposal. For now the Athenians would need to take the lead as their forces were the most battle-hardened and organized. Forces from the other members could join in later on, as well as possible non-League countries willing to help.

The establishment of a blockade and no-fly zone would be done from two sides. Along the Kurdish/Syrian-Iraqi border 200 SAMP/Ts and 50 S-400s would be deployed, employing the area and other features to hide their presence. Combined with Ground Master 400s, 200s and 60s these SAM sites could detect and track air traffic deep inside Iraq and either guide F-22s and Su-57s from bases inside Kurdistan and Syria to the enemy or employ their own missiles to shoot down the enemy. These units came from the Hellenic Army, however as requested by Israel, the Hellenic Marine Corps would deploy their own assets inside their territory. A total of 20 SAMP/Ts and 10 S-400s along with Ground Masters were positioned inside the territory and linked up with Israeli anti-air to protect the country from primarily ballistic and cruise missile threats.

On the other side of Iraq, in the Persian Gulf, the starts of Vigilant Aegis would come into play. The HNS Dobrich and the HNS Alexander the Great would be positioned at a safe distance from the shore to protect against ground based anti-ship missiles in Iraq’s arsenal, but close enough that their F-35s could push deep into Iraq. In addition to their regular escorts, anti-air and anti-submarine specialist ships would join the fleet to protect the aircraft carriers, engage in their own anti-air efforts and enforce the full blockade. This would leave a total of two aircraft carriers, five Battlecruisers, ten Cruisers, ten attack submarines, 30 Destroyers (15 Athena and 15 Hecate) and 35 frigates (20 Artemis and 15 Nemesis). These ships would block any ships to and from Iraq and shoot down any military aicraft Iraq might try to launch.

With both of these operations in full play Iraq was fully covered, with large parts of these countries even being reachable from both sides. The rules of engagement were for the nature of a blockade and no-fly zone mission rather simple. If it flies and is used by the military it goes down, and if it saiils to or from the one major port Iraq had it would be stopped or sunk if stopping it did not work.

Once all forces were in place the Athenian ambassador in Iraq would deliver a message to the President.

Your Excellency,

You have been warned by the international community, yet you still persisted in the cowardly and dangerous attacks against your own people. While we would have wanted to avoid the taking of military action, your crimes against humanity have left us with no choice. On behalf of my own state, the Iberian Union, the Kingdom of Italy and the Federation of Israel I am hereby announcing the following to be into effect.

  1. No aircraft affiliated in any way with an Iraqi armed force may be launched, it will be destroyed.
  2. No ship may approach or leave Iraq, it will be blocked and if it refuses it will be sunk.
  3. Any attempt by an Iraqi armed force to push through the blockade or engage any of the units enforcing the no-fly zone will be considered an act of military aggression and open up the full array of military options in response.
  4. Continued aggression against any minority in your population, but especially the Kurdish people, will likewise open up the full array of military options in response.

If you wish to end this blockade and the no-fly zone you must immediately pull all armed forces from the regions that have a majority Kurdish population and submit to negotiations under Byzantine League supervision to arrange a state of autonomy for the Kurdish regions and a constitution that prevents the Iraqi government from taking future actions against a minority.

The Byzantine League is committed to human rights, do not test our resolve.

Sincerely,
Her Imperial Majesty Athanasia, Empress of the Athenian Federation, Queen of Macedon, Lady Protector of the Spartan League, Chosen of the Amazonian Free State, Speaker of Zeus, Avatar of Athena

Poland’s commitment to international stability came when the Byzantine League went in. Congress approved over 200,000 combat troops, 1,000 Wolverine MBT, 8,000 Hussar light tanks, 2,500 self propelled artillery units, 200 MiG 29 fighters to help enforce the no fly zone, and 300 special forces units would be deployed as part of the Polish Iraq expedition force.
Polish command would detail this deployment to the Athenian federation for permission to enter their waters and airspace for deployment into Kurdistan and eventually be sent into Iraq. The expedition force would be co commanded by Athens/Byzantine League and Polish general Drazik Noklo. Their mission would be to support the League invasion and protect humanitarian operations to protect civilians fleeing the war zone.
Polish military command also began using satellites to send Iraq military images to both Polish and Byzantine commands. Polish special forces once the deployment was allowed would cross deep into Iraq and begin saboteur operations to destroy arms caches, fuel reserves, communication capability and vehicles.

“Allahu Akbar” Lieutenant Rashad Abdulrashid said as he finished the final checks on the pre-flight list. Where normally the phrase would be uttered with enthusiasm or anger, for Rashad there was a resigned sadness to the tone. He knew that today he was not going to come back likely and that his death would not kill the infidel. But Allah willing, it would make sure that their country would soon be free. Rashad had been visited by his previous Squadron Leader the night before. The Colonel informed him that he was a member of a small but important and powerful faction inside the Iraqi government. Fearing an escalation to full war the Iraqi High Command had decided to comply with the no-fly ruling. Some however, including the aforementioned faction believed that biting the oppressor’s hand was the best way to show the Greeks that Iraq did have teeth and to make clear any war for the Kurds would be paid extensively in Greek blood.

“Lieutenant Abdulrashid, you are violating a direct order. Power down the jet and submit to Base Security forces. Lethal force will be used otherwise” A woman’s voice said over the radio. The fear in her voice was obvious. Rather than complying Rashad moved the plane into position to take off. They tried to block his path but he had more than enough space left to get into the air.

“Lieutenant Abdulrahid, Rashad. Please think of your children and your country. Do not do this” The now fully desperate female voice said but it was to no avail. By the time she finished her plea he was in the sky. And moving towards Idlib.

As soon as the F-16 went into the sky the HNS Dobrich would hear several alarm bells go off. Over the past few weeks the aircraft carrier had become the command centre of the operation. While the information from the many sensors were still processed throughout the network, day to day operations and most importantly engagement decisions would be made from the Dobrich. Apart from a few near misses with civilians flying without transponders so far no interceptions had been needed however.

As the identity and heading of the F-16 were confirmed, the nearest patrol would be directed to it. Two F-35Cs from the Alexander the Great were closest and the information would be relayed to the pilots’ HUDs.

“Soapbox, Firefighter, this is Vigiliant Aegis HQ. Hostile Sand Viper identified and on its way to Idlib for unknown purposes. Move to intercept. Lethal force authorized. Over.” One of the many officers in the command centre relayed to the pilots.

“Vigilant Aegis HQ, Soapbox. Understood. Moving to intercept and engage. Out.” Lieutenant Commander Lea “Soapbox” Zoric said as she looked at the blip on her HUD that had gone from just red to being highlighted, confirming that it had been assigned specifically to her and her wingman.

“Commander, at some point you have to tell me how you got that callsign” Lieutenant JG Hasan “Firefighter” Nejen said jokingly. Hasan had only recently completed flight school and was truly one of the most wholesome members of the HNS Alexander the Great. He was so naive, obviously the product of a sheltered childhood, but it made him adorable. Literally everyone liked him and saw him as a little brother or son to protect.

“That story is definitely haram and will ruin your poor innocent mind. Let’s just keep it at it’s a sex thing, Firefighter” Lea replied on the same tone as they changed course and speed to intercept.

“Picking up hostile. Firefighter watch my 6. Over.” Lea ordered as she released the first series of safeties on her tactical panel. Once the radar was locked onto the F-16, it was time to follow the next set of procedures. After she switched channels to the international emergency channel “Iraqi Air Force F-16, we are Hellenic Navy aircraft operating to enforce the international coalition’s no-fly zone. You are in violation of the no-fly zone. Reduce speed and reply to confirm you have understood this message and intend to comply with the no-fly zone. We have been authorized to use lethal force if you do not comply or if you make any aggressive move.”

When the channel stayed completely silent Lea shifted back to the secured one. “Firefighter, repeat my message in Arabic. Over.”

Her junior officer would repeat the message in perfect Arabic but silence still reigned supreme.

“I am doing a fly by. Firefighter. Establish a missile lock. Blow his ass up if he makes any move against me. Over.”

“Understood, Soapbox. I’ve got your 6. Out.” Hasan replied as he locked onto the F-16, releasing all safeties and setting two MBDA Meteors to impact it.

As Lea sped up and moved along the F-16 she could clearly see the pilot was wearing an Iraqi Air Force uniform as well as being fully conscious and in control of his systems. Just as she wanted to send one final warning her radar warning receiver went off and she could see the Iraqi was aiming to engage either her or her wingman. At that point Hasan fired both missiles, destroying the F-16 in a large fireball after Lea had already put some distance between them. Despite the distance a weird fluid and some metal still hit both fighters.

“Vigilant Aegis HQ, Soapbox. Hostile successfully intercepted. Confirmed complete destruction of single-seater Sand Viper. Took some dama…” Just as Lea finished her report just about every alert in the cockpit went off. Most importantly the missile warning. “Being engaged by hostile forces. Moving to evade. Requesting permission to return to Mother. Over”

“Soapbox, Firefighter, Vigilant Aegis HQ. Permission granted. Return to HNS Alexander the Great. Godsspeed. Out.”

“Your heard them Firefighter, let’s get the hell out of here.” Lea said as she looked over all passive and active defences. She still didn’t understand how they were locking onto them. The Pantsir SAMs weren’t obsolete but they definitely shouldn’t be able to target state of the art stealth fighters. It was possible that the Iraqi they had just blown up had been feeding location data to ground stations but even then it was a big reach.

As multiple missiles approached both fighters, their electronic warfare suites managed to deal with them before they hit. However with the second volley they were less lucky as Firefighter took two missiles to the airframe and went up in smoke. Soapbox still managed to destroy the missiles but with one close enough shrapnel from it and debris from her now deceased friend’s fighter impacted the engine hard enough that it went out.

“Vigilant Aegis HQ. Soapbox. Firefighter is down. I lost engine and am going down, moving to destroy technology and jump out. It was a pleasure. Out.” Lea said as she used what control she had left to aim the F-35C for the ocean so Iraq would not be able to salvage it and use Athenian technology themselves. As soon as she had done all she could she ejected. They were close enough to Iraqi Kurdistan that it would be a tossup if her reception on the ground would be friendly or hostile.

Now that authorization had been granted to expand the no-fly and blockade operations into a full invasion of Iraq, the plans of operational command needed to be completely redrawn. For any plan several vital conditions had to be taken into account.

  1. Any military operation must secure the Kurdish territories before Iraqi forces can act against them in retalliation.

  2. The Iraqi Air and Naval forces must be eliminated in the opening strike, before they can return to full operations following the de facto end of the no-fly zone.

  3. Iraqi Air Defence must be neutralized to allow coalition forces free and secure access to the entire country.

An optional fourth condition was the taking of Saddam International Airport in the initial strike to grant the Hellenic Forces an airbridge deep inside Iraqi territory from where a second front could be opened once sufficient forces were inserted by strategic deployment.

In practice for all of these conditions to be met, the attack needed to be devastating and overwhelming in scale, incorporate all branches of the Armed Forces, and perhaps most dangerously involve the landing of lightly armed ground forces behind enemy lines to secure the Kurdish cities of Erbil and Kirkuk while the regular ground forces needed to advance fast enough to secure Mosul on the first day of the offensive. And all of this needed to happen before Iraq could prepare, assuming it more than likely new the downing of two Athenian fighters had guaranteed the escalation to total war. Once Supreme Allied Command had completed its plans it was time to move.

For the Athenian side, the Hellenic Army had already mobilized and deployed the Third Army to its shared border with the Republic of Iraq. For their part the Peshmerga militia had mobilized their own forces and placed them along their border with the Kurdish regions of Iraq. The militia would have a major role in this war as it was assumed that the presence of Kurdish fighters in the coalition vanguard would all but neutralize any resistance from local Kurds to temporary occupation of their territory. The 100,000 soldiers however weren’t going to be enough to deal with the 600,000 strong Iraqi regular army and around 900,000 militants spread throughout various militias. Iraq also had a reserve force to draw from, the size of which was still unknown. While the Athenians had technological superiority, they needed more numbers for the actual full occupation of Iraq. More numbers would soon come as the Second, Fifth and Sixth Armies were all mobilized as part of the 1st Force together with its assigned air and naval units, and begin redeploying to the border regions with Iraq. The advantage of a gradual increase in forces in the area meant that there would be no single concentration of a large number of troops that Iraq could hope to target.

As Iraq’s navy consisted of 175 Corvettes, Patrol Boats and Fast Attack Craft it was not considered a viable threat to even the blockading force and could easily be destroyed. As such the naval deployment would not be increased from the forces already in the region, their mission would change however.

Operation Sand Devil

As the designated hour arrived phase 1 of Operation Sand Devil would commence with the 1st Strategic Air Army, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th Air Assault Armies, as well as the artillery components of the Third Army. Having used CERES and other satellite intelligence as well as drone footage, observations by pilots on the no-fly zone missions, and mobile intelligence units such as RADAR the Hellenic Forces had a really clear picture of where Iraqi’s important units were. This picture would now be used to completely eliminate and overwhelm any resistance to the invasion. The Air Assault armies would primarily focus on rapidly asserting and maintaining air superiority, using anti-radiation weapons and electronic warfare to target and destroy enemy RADAR and surface to air capacity while destroying any enemy aircraft that took to the sky, meanwhile the bombers of the Strategic Air Army would bomb Iraqi air bases, airports as primary targets, and government buildings and Army bases as secondary targets. As a policy civilian infrastructure in the Kurdish region was avoided, even if it was of military value and only military facilities owned by the regular Iraqi military there would be attacked. Also in particular the civilian airports of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra would be spared for a reason that would become horrifyingly apparent to the defenders soon. Munitions used would be a mix of regular explosive, bunker-busting, runway cratering, and thermobaric bombs depending on the facility targeted.

While the air assault was ongoing artillery from the Third Army would target Iraqi forces inside the border territory. Using a mix of self-propelled howitzers, MLRS, and the Iskander cruise and ballistic missiles the Athenians would fire a mix of regular, themobaric and anti-structure munitions. The Iskander ballistic missiles especially would rain hypersonic death on the defenders as the thermobaric munitions on them fired exclusively at units inside enclosed spaces would suck the air out and return only fire for their enemy’s lungs. The barrage would be used across the border to keep it unclear until the last possible moment where the Hellenic Army would begun their incursion into Iraqi territory. About 30% of munitions would be left unused as to be able to initiate counter-battery fire against any Iraqi tanks or artillery. For their own part the Athenian units would engage in shoot-and-scoot tactics to frustrate any attempt of the enemy to fire back at them.

The final attack in phase 1 would come from the blockading naval forces. Having locked the Iraqi Navy into the port areas the ships were essentially sitting ducks. Missiles from the various ships as well as F-35Cs from the aircraft carriers would target and shoot at the entirety of the Iraqi navy, hoping to disable or entirely destroy it where possible.

While phase 1 was still at its height, phase 2 would already commence. Using the confusion of the air and artillery strikes, as well as the likely expectation of an imminent invasion from the border, and quite frankly the insanity of the operation to begin with. 60 C-130J-30 and 20 C-130J-SOF would take off from Antioch AFB. On these transport aircraft were the entirety of the 13th Airborne Razor Brigade, the 5,000 person elite airborne force. The 20 SOF aircraft would take the lead, flying under the shield of the Air Assault Armies for the entirety of the voyage to prevent any targeting by the Iraqi defenders. Once over Saddam International Airport in Baghdad, the 1,280 Razors on the aircraft would jump out and upon landing immediately proceed to take over air traffic control, fuel supplies and hangar facilities. It was expected that with the chaos of it all this part of the airport would be lightly defended. And in any case, they wouldn’t need to hold it too long anyway as the remaining 60 aircraft and 3,620 Razors on them were already on their way and assuming control of vital airport infrastructure was (temporarily) established land rather than drop at the airport. With a 5,000 Razor elite force protecting the airport, it was expected to be able to resist any attempt by the defenders to take it back. Especially as additional forces were soon to use the air bridge to land an invasion force right inside Baghdad and take the city and surrounding area from there.

Now it was time for Phase 3. While artillery had been spread out along the border, the same could not be said for the other ground forces of the Third Army. With a heavy concentration on the border with the Kurdish areas it was now time to move into Iraq. The Peshmerga as their vanguard and with most of the defenders hopefully terminated or otherwise neutralized due to the artillery barrage 70,000 soldiers, 400 T-14s and assorted mechanized vehicles would cross into the Kurdish territories of Iraq. Soldiers were given incredibly strict rules of engagement to treat local civilians and even armed militia as friendly unless they acted otherwise. The 60,000 strong Peshmerga force would meanwhile actively engage local and regional leaderships to reassure them that the Athenian soldiers were friendly and there to safe them. Whenever regular Iraqi forces were identified they would be actively engaged.

With that Operation Sand Devil would come to a conclusion, but its successor was already being brought into gear

Operation Clipped Wing

While the focus of the war was on bringing down the Republic of Iraq, the immediate cause of the escalation was not forgotten. Athens still had a missing pilot behind enemy lines and her return was of vital importance. The Imperial Intelligence Community had actively tried to find the location but while they managed to reduce the area to only several square miles just south-east of Kurdish held territory, they had still been unable to find out where she was exactly. The only upside was that it meant Iraq had also not yet found her. It was decided that only the best of the best was suitable for the search and rescue mission. As such Hellenic Army Special Operations Force Team One was activated and ordered to find the pilot and bring her home. Trained in all-terrain warfare and especially on difficult operations behind enemy lines with no support from home, the men and women of HASOF Team One would be ready for any challenge. They would obtain support from the 5th Unmanned Aerial Operations Warfare Wing in the form of active camera feeds on drones in the area and any fire support they might need. A C-130J-30 would bring them to their landing zone, a remote outskirt of the desert with a road just quite suitable enough for the transport aircraft but once they were deployed they would be on their own until the invasion force actually got to their location. They most likely would have the benefit of anonymity however as it was very unlikely in the chaos of everything, Iraq would have noticed a single transport plane landing in the middle of nowhere.

Saddam Hussein II looked at the portrait of his grandfather as he listened to the speech on his television. As he looked he wondered what the man after which he was named would have done in this situation. How he would have kept his country from certain doom. The harlot of the West had declared war on his country and opened the gates to hell. There was no way he could defeat the Greeks, and certainly not if their Jewish, Italian and Iberian puppets joined them.

“How am I going to fight them back grandfather? How are we going to survive?” He asked, perhaps in some way hoping the portrait would speak back. The only voice would come as the doors to his office slammed open and an elderly gentleman in a green uniform walked in. With the amount of metal from medals and awards on his chest it was a miracle he could stand upright. “Mister President, our border guards have reported that the Athenians have crossed into our land before we lost all contact with them” General Soleiman said panicking.

Saddam simply pointed at the television where the Empress was still speaking before answering. “I am aware, what are you doing to stop them?”

“We are mobilizing everything we have but they crossed into the separatist areas first making countering them more difficult, and there is m…” The General could not even finish his sentence as the unmistakable sound of jet engines could be heard overhead, followed immediately by the sound of bombs dropping. In an instant there was a loud bang as everything turned black.

“Mister President” Saddam slowly opened his eyes. Was this paradise? Where were the things he was promised? As his eyes adjusted to the light he was instead looking at the face of Soleiman surrounded by soldiers, each had their uniforms excessively damaged. His entire body hurt and he could see he was in some kind of hospital.

“What happened?”

“They bombed the palace, we were lucky to be in your office otherwise we probably wouldn’t have survived” Soleiman replied.

“Status?”

“The infidels have launched a massive bombing and shelling campaign throughout the country, our forces on the border have been routed and the Air Force has been decimated, the Navy was basically eliminated leaving only the sunk hulls to deny them a naval landing. We also have reports of Kurds in the north joining the fight and sabotaging our forces from the rear. Finally, they have landed at the airport here and secured it completely.”

Saddam could feel his blood boiling as he heard the report, the Athenians needed to pay for their crimes. “General, order the army to leave all Kurdish held terriories and establish a frontline where the peopl actually support us. Destroy everything in their wake as they leave. Order whatever air force we have left to bomb Damascus and Diyarbakir. Fire any rockets we can’t move at civilians across the border. We will stand and fight in our own land but make the enemy pay for every inch to get to the new frontline” He ordered before losing consciousness again.


The General hadn’t been exaggerated, the situation was dire. Most military air infrastructure and even a lot of civilian had been completely destroyed, the air force mostly being grounded at the time didn’t fare any better. It was not as bad hit as the Navy though which were basically fish in a barrel as between the blockade and the desert they had nowhere to run. While panic and lack of discipline at the border had caused a 40-120km retreat, the Army still had managed to restore command and control. However with the transport infrastructure and command and control infrastructure extensively damaged sending reinforcements north would be very difficult. Then there was the fifth column in the Kurdish population, thousands had already taken up arms for the enemy and the last thing the soldiers needed was to fear a bullet in the back.

With that the orders would be executed as instructed. Iraqi soldiers would withdraw from the Kurdish regions and establish a new border at the Sunni and Shia borders with the Kurdish regions but before they left they would fire artillery at or rig explosives to vital infrastructure such as bridges, oil refineries and rigs, roads, food supply, water purification and pipelines, the Mosul Dam, and the two nuclear power plants in Kirkuk and Erbil. The staff working at the nuclear power plants would be forced at gunpoint to remove all safety precautions and all but guarantee a radiological disaster. The Athenians were to inherit a humanitarian and logistical disaster for every kilometre they took. The death toll from this alone would be in the hundreds of thousands at best but likely much worse. Allah willing the radioactive cloud might even hit the Athenian Federation itself.

Finally the revenge against the infidel. Despite their bombings’ effectiveness, the Iraqi Air Force still had about 30 Tu-22 bombers. These could not do any real damage against the insane Athenian integrated air defence network but at the very least they could show the enemy that the lion could still bite. Given their suicide mission the pilots of the last two bomber squadrons said their goodbyes and took off. 20 headed to Damascus and 10 to Amed (Diyarbakir). Their orders were simple, bomb whatever area they could reach with the most people. Of the 20 for Damascus only 3 reached their target before dropping their payloads on residential areas and a children’s hospital. The Amed raid meanwhile had only a single bomber reach the target which was able to bomb the Kurdish Parliament. None of the bombers would return to Iraq as they were destroyed on the return trip. Finally dozens of rockets containing all kinds of munitions that could not be moved to the new frontline and weren’t needed for the scorched Earth would be shot at Athenian troop concentrations and civilian settlements in range.

Athens threw down the gauntlet. Iraqi aggression would no longer be tolerated. General Noklo’s forces mobilized and began driving toward Qa’im to secure it as a forward operating base. Polish ground forces spearheaded by tanks and their flank secured by the Athenian invasion east of them confidently drove a wide column to the Iraqi city, behind them were the infantry brought in via trucks and combat vehicles. The Polish flag waving over the head of the wolverine tanks would show the Iraqi they faced two major European powers now.

The forward Iraqi defenses would be quickly overwhelmed and overrun near Qa’im. As armies units went to surround the city and cut it off, infantry entered to clean up defenses. It was clear as they engaged what few Iraqi troops willing to engage them that the bulk of the Iraqi military was not prepared. After a few hours of small arms fighting the Polish forces captured the city and began rolling in personnel and equipment in at a rapid pace. Ground forces wanting to capitalize now turned to Rawa to the East and Rutba to the south. Poland would cut the western Iraqi state off from Baghdad to secure Athens flank as they drove to the capital. Split up the Polish forces began besieging the two towns and slowly they capitulated. Poland seized a serviceable chunk of Iraq and began rolling logistical support to Athens as the battlefronts connected in the north east. General Noklo would turn his gaze to Ramadi, he could setup artillery to support Athenian ground forces there and secure the Polish drive south to cut Iraq in half. For now his forces were ahead of schedule, the Athenian air campaign made their job entirely too easy and the Iraqi forces they engaged were simply too under equipped and not willing to die in the conditions presented.

——-Air——-

Polish air forces found little to do other than support Athenians. Mig29 fulcrums would conduct patrols over what would be coalition airspace now and hunt down any Iraqi aircraft that dared to enter it. They would hunt down Iraqi Tu-22 bombers to prevent them from escaping and shoot them down. Like hungry wolves they hunted relentlessly looking for targets.

Iraqi forces thinking their hell could not get worse would be quickly corrected confederate su- 25 aircraft began attacking any Iraqi ground forces that had not retreated to the main battle front. Obliterating them without remorse these Su-25 patrols would decimate the Iraqi armor left straggling by. The next phase of the air campaign for Poland would be to use the Su-25 to provide support to the Polish forces advancing by softening Iraqi positions in the south and west.