The Baffin Bay Turkey Shoot

Fiction Contest Week

By Mike Matson

12 December 2077 — 1210 Hours, 88km South/Southwest of Joint Base Thule, Greenland

The Greenland Self Defense Forces (GSDF) were going to war.

Lt. Tame Larsen, GSDF, peered intently at the heads-up display (HUD) built into his flying suit’s helmet showing his flightpath heading through a winding ice-cut valley in northwest Greenland.

Using the valley to mask him from any enemy radar, Lt. Larsen, a third-generation South Pacific climate refugee, flew with twenty linked drones in a loose formation like a flock of seagulls. Fifteen of the drones were powerful swarming munitions, and five were support drones — three jammer decoys; an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drone; and a communications relay drone. Most of the equipment was of Turkish, Indonesian, or Ukrainian origin.

The swarm was nothing more than gray blurs in the twilight dark of the Arctic’s polar night, their presence betrayed only by the wasp-like hum of electric engines as fleeting shadows zipped along the valley floor. Lt. Larsen’s mission tonight was to defend the North Water Ploynya fishery.

Greenland’s North Water Polynya (NWP) was one of the only stable, high-performing fisheries left on the planet, and a strategic national asset for the fledgling independent country. The ‘Big Melt’ over three decades ago had witnessed the loss of the majority of Greenland’s ice sheet, triggering a global fishery catastrophe. Drastic ocean temperature changes disrupted ocean currents and tipped delicately balanced ecosystems into rapid decline. A desperate humanity reeling from the loss of millions of acres of coastal lands to rising seas battled for control of the remaining fisheries.

Now the Chinese were sending an armed fishing fleet to the NWP to take the fishery from Greenland in a de facto act of war.

Lt Larsen and his platoon of 15 Marine Raiders, comprising the entirety of the GSDF special operations forces (SOF), flew individual paths through several valleys, each with their own escorts, totaling almost 300 platforms. Every Raider except two designated heavy weapon specialists had twenty wingmen each as well, mostly a mix of swarming munitions, jammer decoys, and high-speed antiradiation missile (HARM) drones. The two heavy weapon Raiders each controlled five extra-large anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) drones. The missiles were a Turkish knockoff of a Chinese ASCM packaged in a disposable launch canister integrated into a flying wing.

“Gull Six, prepare for feet wet and final turn,” said a Royal Danish Air Force officer in the joint operations center (JOC) at Joint Base Thule. Lt. Larsen’s Raider platoon was on autopilot, guided by a remote ground station in northern Denmark since their deployment via palleted munition drops out the back of the GSDF’s entire fleet of four regional cargo transports. The transports had transmitted false identification as regularly scheduled Air Greenland flights taking off from Thule’s modern civilian terminal to mask their activity. The JOC had shut down cell and internet service at the airport so the operation could not be exposed.

“Copy,” was all a tense Lt. Larsen reported. His stomach churned from the nervousness of going into action for the first time.

To Lt. Larsen’s left, stretching off into the night, he could faintly see the synchronized blinking of red aircraft warning lights atop the wind turbines which lined the Greenland coast for hundreds of kilometers. The entire west coast of Greenland was lined with thousands of turbines used to generate renewable energy for North America, transmitted via deep-sea, shielded electrical transmission lines.

Greenland’s abundance of wind and hydro power had turned Greenland into the Saudi Arabia of green energy during the tumultuous global realignments caused by the Big Melt. The synchronized light show of the turbine fields was one of the defining memories of Lt. Larsen’s childhood.

“Feet Wet!” He called out, a little too excited, as he crossed the coastline and into a deeper, consuming darkness — the moon casting a soft, pastel glow on the water below. These were waters he had fished his whole life. For him they had never been the frozen, ice-covered wastelands of history books, but a bountiful if temperamental sea he had fished year-round.

The platoon was entering Baffin Bay now from a half dozen points, and one hundred thirty kilometers in front of them, near the southern edge of the NWP, was their target: the invading Chinese fishing fleet with its PLA Navy (PLAN) escorts. Lt. Larsen’s suit banked sharply to the right, setting him on an intercept course, as the rest of his platoon soon settled into a single amorphous swarm stretching 10km from tip to tip.

“Status update on the targets?” Larsen asked the JOC in Danish. Although finally a fully independent country, Greenland maintained close ties to Denmark, and the GSDF and Danish Armed Forces were fully integrated. Lt. Larsen had commissioned out of the Royal Danish Military Academy.

“No change. They still haven’t realized their actual location and are continuing normal fishing operations. The cloud cover helped as expected. Too late for them now even if they figure it out.”

Lt. Larsen grimly smiled in his helmet. The brief patch of clear skies forecast by the meteorological department had dictated the attack take place today. With the ability to use celestial navigation, the Chinese would eventually realize their predicament.

“Excellent. We are approaching phase line green — do we have permission to execute? Confirm.”

“Confirmed Gul Six. Seal detachment engaging as well. Glory for Greenland!”

“Glory for Greenland,” Lt. Larsen repeated, then flipped channels to the platoon net.

“We’re a go,” he said without preamble in Kalaallisut, his native Inuit language. “Remember, disable the factory vessels if necessary, but do not sink them — we need to save the catch. It’s our primary objective after destroying the escorts. Use your swarm on any combatants or fishing trawlers. Glory for Greenland!”

The platoon responded with a chorus of war whoops, curse words in several languages, and ‘Glory for Greenland,’ all to cover their nervousness. They were the best of the GSDF, but none of them had previously been under fire.

Greenland’s growing population of three million people, driven by a standing promise to accept any indigenous refugee whose land was lost to the Big Melt, needed the fishery to survive. Even with the vast, newly exposed agricultural lands in southern and central Greenland, which are home to the fourth largest sheep herd in the world, if the Chinese were allowed to come and take their fish, the fishery would eventually collapse, and Greenlanders, old and new, would starve.

Lt. Larsen, taking local command of the swarm, sent a burst transmission, and the formation seamlessly shifted in the dark. ISR and jammers climbed to 5,000 meters. The HARMs moved to the tips on the flanks, and the two heavy weapon Raiders moved to the center. The swarm formed a crescent, with the tips farthest forward, HARMs waiting for the first electronic signs of its prey.

When the invading Chinese fishing fleet had entered Lancaster Sound at the end of the NW passage, the GSDF had gone to a war footing. The GSDF and their Danish counterparts had been slowly shaping the battlespace since the hostile fleet sailed from China, through a combination of three lines of effort, using old fashioned, yet high tech skullduggery.

The first line of effort involved icebergs.

To push the invading fleet closer to Greenland, the GSDF placed iceberg tracking beacons on thirteen small, unmanned surface wave gliders which sailed in a slow, coordinated movement southward out of the Nares Straight along the Baffin Island current, presenting on navigation charts as a rather large iceberg field that should be avoided.

In peacetime, the Greenland and Danish coast guards operating out of Thule placed these tracking beacons on the now rare icebergs which periodically flowed into Baffin Bay as a navigational aid for commercial shipping. Climate change had created an ice-free year-round route through the NW passage which had become a critical Asia-Europe trade route, compensating for disruptions in southern coastal areas like Florida which had mostly disappeared under five plus meters of rising seas.

The ruse had worked, and the invaders — four ultra-large fish factory vessels with thirty-six fishing trawlers and a robust escorting PLAN surface action group — sailed farther eastward and northward than they would have wanted to get to the NWP, driving them much closer than desired to Joint Base Thule.

______________________________________________________________________________________

The first rotating symbols showed up as over the horizon targets in Lt. Larsen’s HUD: red for the PLAN escorts, orange for the fishing trawlers, and blue for the floating processing factories. The ISR drone nearly five kilometers above him cataloged and processed signals and designated targets.

“Detachments A and B — targets selected. Launch now!” Lt. Larsen ordered. On the tips of the crescent, the HARM drones leapt forward at full speed, heading for the PLAN combatants at Mach 2. To Lt. Larsen’s immediate left and right, there were puffs of hazy smoke as ASCMs were ejected from cannisters by compressed air and then had rocket motors activate meters above the surface, the launch cannisters falling away into the frigid water. Nine supersonic sea skimming missiles sped off along the wave tops while the tenth malfunctioned and splashed into the sea.

“Thule. this is Gull Six. Engaging now. Missiles away!” That got a terse acknowledgement from the JOC.

“Activate jammers,” ordered Lt. Larsen on the platoon net. To his right on the far horizon, he could see dozens of pinpricks of light streaking downwards through a thin film of broken stratus clouds to the north, briefly illuminating the sparse cloud cover. His HUD confirmed the light show was ASCMs from Seal detachment arriving from the north and northeast.

Seal detachment, a squadron of three Danish stealth missile corvettes permanently stationed at the deep-water port which was part of Joint Base Thule, had departed the navy pier in blackout conditions. They took advantage of a coverage gap of Chinese satellite surveillance and raced towards the invaders at 40+ knots to launch their missiles.

The powerful ship-killing missiles closed quickly on their prey, causing the PLAN taskforce commander to briefly wonder how the hell the Dane’s had managed to sail so far from Thule undetected. As the missile count continued to rise on air defense displays, automated warnings screamed alerts out across the fishing fleet.

The TF commander’s confusion was due to the second line of effort: GPS spoofing.

The Danish military, with quiet help from the NSA and Canadian CSE, had initiated an operation to spoof the Chinese fleet’s location, targeting GPS, GLONASS, and their own BeiDou constellation, while altering the broadcasts of several Greenland and Canadian-controlled deep-sea buoys, along with all coastal navigational beacons surrounding Baffin Bay. It was subtle and required careful coordination.

When the battle started the Chinese fleet was 200 kilometers farther southeast than their instruments placed them.

As the PLAN warships fully energized all their radars, Seagull swarm’s missiles were identified racing towards the fleet from an unexpected direction.

The PLAN TF commander, until then still brimming with misplaced confidence, felt the first twinge of dread as the second swarm was plotted. Something was clearly amiss. He did not have time to dwell further, as just then the first missiles struck.

The multi-axis attack behind heavy jamming overwhelmed the PLAN’s integrated air defense network, despite two PLAN escorts successfully launching over a dozen SAMs. HARMs raked phased-array panels and upper decks with cubes of shrapnel, shredding sensitive equipment masts, while ASCMs did the killing down by the waterline.

Explosions rent the darkness. The PLAN’s flagship cruiser was struck squarely in its forward magazine, obliterating the ship. Night briefly turned into day from the flash of the explosion, and the fireball became a boiling mushroom cloud rising hundreds of meters. Another escort took five hits in quick succession, turning turtle in seconds and sliding under the waves with all hands. Missiles continued to find other PLAN combatants with deadly effect.

“Thule, this is Gull Six. I can confirm multiple impacts on at least six warships. Waiting on Walrus to initiate our assault.” He flipped back to the platoon net.

“Prepare to make the run for your targets.” As he said that, he saw the outline of the last surviving PLAN destroyer on the far side of the fishing fleet silhouetted in a glaring backlight that was quickly suppressed by clouds of smoke as multiple streaks of light shot into the air. The ship had picked up Lt. Larsen’s Seagull swarm and started launching SAMs from fore and aft vertical launch systems (VLS).

“Vampires! Vampires!” Came the automated call in all their headsets.

“Evasive action everyone, make your run now! Now! Now!” The swarm broke in multiple dimensions. The jammer decoys tried to suppress enemy missile seekers with digital vomit, while deploying flares, chaff, and miniature decoys. Everyone else went low, fast, and wide.

In just under a minute, the destroyer’s twin 64-cell VLSs were empty, and over a hundred SAMs streaked over the fishing fleet towards the Raiders. The merging swarms twisted, dove, and spun as they converged over the fishing fleet in Baffin Bay. Quick flashes of light in the darkness confirmed successful intercepts between manned and unmanned combatants.

That’s when the third, insidious line of effort came to life.

As Lt. Larsen’s Raiders weaved towards their targets, what the GSDF’s operational plan dubbed “Walrus detachment” started rising like leviathans from the dark deep of Baffin Bay.

The GPS spoofing had pulled the Chinese fleet over a freshly laid field of smart mines. As old as naval warfare itself, the simple sea mine still produced a devastating impact for such a limited investment. When combined with an advanced algorithmic hive mind, a smart sea mine was as deadly a weapon as any anti-ship missile.

The mines acted in a cooperative manner. Able to categorize ships by propellor and plant noise, tens of sea mines began to strike from below, just as Lt. Larsen’s loitering munitions circled and dove on the fishing trawlers and surviving PLAN combatant.

Hundreds of swarming munitions mixed with Chinese SAMs and green tracers from auto-cannons installed on the “civilian” fishing trawlers in a giant invisible furball spread over dozens of square kilometers. Explosions kept rending the night sky as missiles, drones, and mines all found targets in a deadly fireworks display.

Lt. Larsen climbed to get a better view as the engagement winded down. He watched as hundreds of emergency LEDs attached to survival suits activated, bobbing up and down in the dark singularly or in groups, interspersed between fields of burning oil and dark debris. Red flares arched from survival rafts into the sky from all points of the compass. Lt. Larsen knew the unforgiving waters of Baffin Bay would kill anyone in minutes if they were not in immersion suits.

A fisherman before joining the service, he felt a sense of empathy for the terrified Chinese sailors struggling in the dark, icy waters. Lt. Larsen tagged their locations as best he could and sent them to the JOC. The JOC would already be receiving the pings of hundreds of emergency satellite locator beacons in the coast guard watch center.

“Thule, this is Gull Six. All combatants disabled and sinking. Deploy the rescue ship.”

“Raiders, time to take the factories.” The plan had four GSDF SOF personnel assigned to seize each factory. Two soldiers had been shot down, the GSDF’s first and only combat losses of the night, leaving one boarding crew short.

Lt. Larsen streaked up to the forecastle of the fish factory and flared, barely avoiding the fore mast, cutting the engines as he landed. Hitting the quick release on his suit, he flipped his night-vision goggles down over his eyes and raised his rifle as his partner landed to his left. The plan was to land two on the forecastle and two directly on top of the bridge structure of each factory.

They swept forward with their rifles, their goal the steering bridge. They expected resistance, but the crews had apparently followed piracy protocols and locked themselves in safe rooms. They took the ships unopposed.

______________________________________________________________________________________

From the bridge wing, Lt. Larsen watched as the factory was docked alongside the quay with the help of two tugs. Harbor pilots had been flown out by helicopter once everything was secure, along with coast guard teams to process prisoners, relieving him and his men of additional duty.

Klieg lights lit up the quay, turning perpetual twilight into an artificial, harsh daylight filled with people moving in hurried gaits along the concrete pier amid a tumult of machinery noises and honking trucks. Two factory vessels were already docked, and he could see the Danish corvettes had returned over at the naval pier, battle flags proudly flying.

An aging light amphibious warship bought from the Americans years ago was also pulling into port. It had been the designated rescue vessel and held several dozen catatonic, hypothermic Chinese prisoners, along with over a hundred bodies pulled from the water, including the PLAN TF commander.

Smoke on the wind touched his nostrils, and he grimaced, the smell briefly overpowering the musky scent of the catch in the hold he instinctively loved as a fisherman. Lt. Larsen knew it was the burning permafrost in Russia. It had been burning almost non-stop for 30 years and filled the Arctic air with soot which covered snow in a perpetual gray film.

Above him flocks of seagulls circled the quay with their piercing cries as the northern lights shimmered over the mountains beyond Thule.

A chorus of ship horns started blaring in celebration around the port, and everyone on the quay stopped to let out a cheer. Lt. Larsen smiled and walked back into the steering bridge to activate the ship’s horn, watching the celebrations out the window.

He did not know if the Chinese would send another fleet. But for the moment his people were safe and their fishery secure. It was enough.

Mike Matson is a writer based in Louisville, Kentucky. He has 25 years of government and national security experience, and is a member of the Military Writers Guild. He can be found on Twitter at @Mike40245.

Featured Image: “Explorers” by Marat Zakirov via Artstation.

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