The Kuril Islands War that Wasn’t-How Scenarios Stall

Late 1993. Russia’s eyes are focused on the showdown between Yeltsin and the parliament, the crisis that would end the country’s experiment with democracy almost as soon as it began. But in the Far East, a seemingly long-defeated adversary hopes to take advantage of it…

Fleets of ships and aircraft rush from Hokkaido and strike at the two disputed Kuril Islands, thinking that the collapsed nation is too politically and militarily weak to do anything but quickly give up…

The Third Russo-Japanese War pits the previously restrained JSDF against the crumbled shell of Russia whose Soviet-era arsenal has not entirely been scuttled yet. This seems like a piece of cake for a scenario. And yet-it hasn’t developed into anything beyond a few scenario editor experiments.



Not the biggest challenge. I’m willing to make concessions for the sake of playability, as long as its close enough. The hardest part would be the airbases, and that’s not very difficult.

Scenario creep:

This is a bigger problem. Either I end up with a restrained skirmish that doesn’t live up the full potential of the war, or I get a massive bloated mess where F-4s and MiG-23s fight to see who will be spared the indignity of the boneyard, Oscar subs and Kongo destroyers answer the question of Aegis vs. Granit, and you have to escort troop convoys.

Finding a middle ground is tough. So is making a scenario that takes advantage of both sides.

Uneven sides:

The initial assault on the Kuril Islands could very well be a difficulty five scenario by itself. This is because, especially at the time, Japan’s air-to-ground capability is very weak, and in no state to challenge Russia’s infamous defenses. A few platforms with unguided bombs are not exactly in good shape to conduct a SEAD campaign against even a Vietnam-vintage system. Against anything better, they will be utterly hopeless.

At sea and in the air, they’re better matched, although success depends on how many of the bigger Soviet-surplus platforms are still useable. The large submarine fleets make for something interesting-Pacific Fleet SSNs against top-of-the-line diesels operating in the defensive littoral element they excel in.

So it’s hard. But is it impossible? Nope. As the “Sakhalin or Karafuto” scenario shows, a modern Russo-Japanese War in Command is still possible. But the difficulties have nonetheless kept me from making it, and pushed me towards easier creations.