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Red Storm Rising is a 1986 techno-thriller novel by Tom Clancy and Larry Bond about a third World War in Europe between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces, set around the mid-1980s. Though there are other novels dealing with a fictional World War III, this one is notable for the way in which numerous settings for the action — from Atlantic convoy duty to shooting down reconnaissance satellites to tank battles in Germany — all have an integral part to play on the outcome. Red Storm Rising is one of two novels that has no association with Clancy's others, as it does not fall in the Ryanverse.

The novel eventually lent its name to a game development company called Red Storm Entertainment, which Clancy co-founded in 1997.

Plot summaryEdit

With ironic and terrifying connection to the world today, Islamic terrorists from Azerbaijan destroy a new oil-production facility in Nizhnevartovsk, severely crippling Soviet oil production and threatening to wreck the Soviet economy. Facing a perceived need to make crippling concessions to the West to survive the crisis, the Politburo chooses a different path: war. The Politburo decides to seize the Persian Gulf oil fields by force.

Character development centers on both nations. While there are many ancillary characters, the Soviets are primarily represented by a junior Politburo member, Sergetov, and a military commander, Alekseyev. The American story, while varied, centers around three friends in different naval capacities. CMDR McCafferty, commander of the Los Angeles class attack submarine USS Chicago; CMDR Morris, commander of the anti-sub boat, USS Pharris; and LCMDR Toland, an intelligence officer. Of interesting note, Toland's boss in the novel suffered a similar injury to that of Jack Ryan as described in The Hunt for Red October . Both of these injuries reportedly came from the mind of co-author Larry Bond, as he suffered a similar accident while serving with the British special forces in his younger years.

According to the Carter Doctrine, any attack on the Persian Gulf is an attack on a vital strategic interest of the United States, and will be treated as such, meaning a military response. Of course, there were no teeth to this policy under Jimmy Carter, but with the occupant of the White House in the mid 1980s Ronald Reagan (unnamed in the novel, as is Soviet Secretary-General Gorbachev), the Soviets know that they can no longer simply take what they want. To prevent NATO's combined reaction, they first launch a KGB operation to split NATO by making it appear as if West Germany had launched an unprovoked terrorist attack on the Soviet Union, followed by an invasion of Europe in response to that “attack.” With West Germany occupied, and NATO defeated, it is hoped that the United States will not feel the need to rescue the Arab oil states, as it can meet its oil needs with Western Hemisphere sources. In order to mobilize popular support within the Soviet Union specifically against West Germany, the Politburo arranges a bomb blast in the Kremlin, killing, among others, some visiting children from an elementary school in Pskov, publicly pinning the blame on a West German exile.

The KGB operation has limited success: the coming Soviet attack on German communications facility Lammersdorf is detected only a few days in advance when a Spetsnaz major is captured in Aachen. The officer's capture gives NATO time to start mobilization and providing sufficient evidence to prevent the complete fracturing of the alliance. Nonetheless, it scores some success, as several governments, notably those of Greece and Japan, publicly claim that this is a “German-Russian disagreement” that they refuse to be involved in. Thus, the Soviets have a quiet Pacific theater due to political pressure on Japan, and are also able to avoid a southern front in the coming conflict in Western Europe as Turkey is unable (or unwilling) to launch an offensive alone.

NATO aircraft manage to reduce Soviet ground superiority on the first night of the war by using first-generation stealth planes and tactical fighter-bombers to eliminate five Soviet Mainstay AWACS aircraft, several bridges, bridge equipment and crews, and Soviet Air Force tactical fighters, achieving air superiority. The Soviets still advance, but at great cost to themselves. Germany becomes the epicenter of the conflict; here, NATO forces are slowly driven west while inflicting significant damage to the Soviet Army.

One of the strategic master-strokes of the Soviet Union's opening moves in the war is its seizure of Iceland, capturing Naval Air Station Keflavik. This disrupts the GIUK SOSUS line (American seabed hydrophones), expected to prevent the Soviet Navy from operating effectively in the Atlantic by making it impossible for their ships and submarines to enter the Atlantic undetected. In addition, the Soviet Navy isolate and protect their ballistic missile submarine fleet, freeing their attack submarine force to engage and destroy NATO shipping. The Soviet Navy is able to act as an offensive weapon, and the Warsaw Pact seriously damages NATO's war effort by interdicting resupply convoys coming from North America with both aircraft and submarines. This advantage is put to immediate use, as a NATO carrier battle group, led by USS Nimitz, USS Saratoga and the French carrier Foch, is successfully attacked by Soviet Badger and Backfire bombers, the latter firing long-range anti-ship missiles. A noteworthy tactic was the shooting of drones by the Badgers far out off the group. The carriers' F-14 squadrons erroneously fire on the drones, leaving no missiles for the real bombers. Foch is sunk, the amphibious assault carrier Saipan explodes, taking 2,500 Marines with her, and the two American carriers are forced to spend several weeks in drydock at Southampton, England.

In West Germany, the battle becomes a war of attrition that the Soviets expect to win, having greater reserves of men and materiel. NATO holds the Warsaw Pact forces to small but continual advances, but only through unsustainably high ammunition usage, and as the Soviet success in destroying the Atlantic convoys continues things start to look grim for the NATO forces. With the death of the Soviet political favorite CinC-West by a NATO air attack on the Soviet rear lines, the more competent CinC-Southwest and his second-in-command, General-Colonel Pavel Leonidovich Alekseyev take over on the German front. Alekseyev commands a successful Soviet attack on the town of Alfeld, finally giving the Soviet Army the breakthrough it needs. As the OMG (Operational Manoeuvre Group) forces start to deploy, NATO looks likely to lose all of Germany east of the Weser River.

When a brilliantly timed naval attack on Soviet bomber bases with submarine-launched cruise missiles cripples the Soviet bomber force, the Soviets lose their most effective convoy-killing weapon. The Soviet Army proves unable to capitalize on its breakthroughs in Germany, as they have already lost too many troops covering too little territory. The U.S. Marines stage an amphibious assault on Iceland backed by NATO navies, retaking the island and closing the Atlantic to Soviet forces. Finally, a failed bomber raid on the NATO naval forces attacking Iceland (in which the remaining Soviet Naval cruise missile bomber fleets are nearly wiped out) leaves Soviet prospects of victory through conventional war all but hopeless.

This leads the Politburo to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons at the front to regain the initiative. Alekseyev, realizing that a tactical nuclear exchange would almost certainly lead to a strategic nuclear exchange, seeks and obtains control of his theatre's nuclear weapons in order to ensure they would not be used. A captured Soviet pilot from the Iceland campaign also reveals to the NATO forces why the war was started: oil. The NATO forces immediately re-evaluate their bombing tactics over the front and begin a blitzkrieg campaign to locate and destroy as many Soviet fuel depots as possible; this cripples the Soviet tanks, keeping them from launching at least one major attack which would have caught the NATO forces shorthanded and allowed reinforcements to arrive prior to the battle.

With the Politburo contemplating the use of strategic nuclear weapons, General Alekseyev joins forces with the head of the KGB and the Energy Minister, Mikhail Eduardovich Sergetov, in staging a coup d’état, replacing the Politburo with a troika consisting of Sergetov, Agriculture Minister F. M. Krylov, and longtime Politburo member Pyotr Bromkovskiy (an elderly and respected World War II veteran) whilst the Head of the KGB is allowed to be executed by a Major revealed to be a parent of one of the children that was killed in the Kremlin bombing. A cease-fire is sought by the Soviets and accepted by an exhausted NATO, and the aftermath of the war is left unwritten.

Characters in Red Storm RisingEdit

Major themesEdit

Template:Unreferenced section This techno-thriller is an examination of a conventional ground war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Clancy suggests that several conventional ideas about a ground conflict between modern armies are wrong. For example, he proposes that munitions expenditures would be far higher than projected; that combat helicopters like the AH-64 Apache and the Mi-24 Hind are not nearly as survivable as projected; that the mobility granted by modern armor means that the Soviet doctrine of a massed thrust achieving a breakthrough of the opposing front is ill-founded—the enemy lines can withdraw and reform rather than break; and modern air power can only dominate a battlefield in the absence of an opposing modern air force.


Clancy also incorporated the rumored F-19 stealth fighter into his plot. The existence of stealth aircraft was an open secret among aerospace watchers in the 1980s, but was highly classified at the time the novel was written. In actuality, computers of the day were not powerful enough to design the F-19's curved surfaces, resulting instead in the simpler and more angular F-117 Nighthawk.

The 1991 Persian Gulf War, although far more of a mismatch than a late-1980s NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict would have been, did provide some evidence for Clancy's hypotheses. The U.S. Army's Apaches proved more vulnerable to ground fire than had been predicted, and by the war's end the majority of close air support was being delivered by the more heavily armored Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft. Fittingly, Clancy identifies the A-10 as being a key weapon in his Red Storm Rising scenario. He even has the Russian armored forces dub it the "Devil's Cross" due to its ability to destroy many tanks before being driven off by SAMs and MANPADS, and due to the Russians' perception of its profile, from an angle, as similar to that of the Russian Orthodox cross. His predictions on the high rate of munitions expenditure also appears to have been borne out—even though the initial attack on Iraq was short, it drained U.S. arsenals to an alarming extent, forcing the Pentagon to undertake a crash program to rebuild stocks of smart bombs.

Evidence for the prediction of high expenditures of munitions was already available from the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In this conflict both sides consumed munitions so rapidly that within one week of the start of combat, both the United States and the Soviet Union had to airlift munitions to their respective client states (Israel for the U.S., Egypt and Syria for the Soviet Union) to avoid a collapse of their respective armed forces.

Another point of interest is the use of America's Iowa-class battleships, which in the novel are sent to Iceland to support the United States Marines during their amphibious landing and air assault. The effectiveTemplate:Citation needed use of battleships in modern war was demonstrated during the 1991 Gulf War, when the Missouri and Wisconsin shelled shore-based artillery sites, antiship missile facilities, and Iraqi troop concentrations arrayed along the coasts of Iraq and Kuwait, and on Faylaka Island.

Of interesting note is the lack of mention of special operations forces during the conflict, such as United States Navy SEALs and Army Rangers. This is particularly so when we consider Clancy's interest in this area. The only special forces groups mentioned are the Soviet Spetsnaz, German GSG-9, Marine Force Recon and British SAS groups in the opening hours of the conflict and a limited British Royal Marine presence on Iceland several weeks after the Soviet invasion. Many strategists suggest these units would be used to disrupt various tactical and strategic aspects of the opposing side's efforts. In the case of the novel, Special Operation teams could have been used to harass Soviet air operations in Norway. Omitting these special ops groups is unusual for Clancy, whose other works often focus on the capabilities of special operations forces.

Clancy's descriptions of Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, and the surrounding area, were extremely accurate.

Games Edit

In 1987-1989 Spectrum HoloByte, later Three-Sixty Pacific computerized the Harpoon (boardgame) as Harpoon (computer game). Clancy used early versions of the computer game to test the naval battles for the novel.[1] The project was led by Don Gilman and then Gordon Walton. The game series (there are three products) are still in production as of 2010 by Matrix Games.

In December 1988 MicroProse released a Red Storm Rising computer game, in which the player commanded an American submarine against Soviet forces. The player had the option of choosing between both single missions or campaign and which era to play in; modern missions offered the player more advanced submarines and weapons, but also a more technologically advanced adversary as well.

In 1989, TSR, Inc. released a board game designed by Douglas Niles, based on the book. The game won the Origins Award for Best Modern-Day Boardgame of 1989 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Boardgame of 1989.[2]

The 2007 video game World in Conflict postulates a Soviet invasion of Germany in an effort to preserve a crumbling Soviet Union set in a similar time period under similar pretenses. Co-author of Red Storm Rising, Larry Bond, was the main consultant for the World in Conflict team.[3]


  1. Harpoon Naval Warfare Simulation Game - AGSI - Harpoon Commanders Edition (HCE).
  2. Origins Award Winners (1989). Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2007-11-05. Retrieved on 2007-10-29.
  3. World in Conflict HQ.

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