Red Storm Rising

Red Storm Rising

infobox Book |
name = Red Storm Rising
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of 1986 first edition
author = Tom Clancy & Larry Bond
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Techno-thriller, Novel
publisher = Putnam Publishing
release_date = August 1986
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 656 p. (hardback edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-399-13149-3 (hardback edition)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"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, probably in 1986 or 1987. 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. This 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 summary

Azerbaijani terrorists destroy a new oil-production facility at Nizhnevartovsk, USSR, 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.

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. To prevent NATO's combined reaction, they first launch a KGB operation to split NATO by making it appear as if West Germany 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 students from an elementary school in Pskov ('conveniently' right after a broadcast of a refurbished version of the 1939 film "Alexander Nevsky" with its very stark anti-German overtones), publicly pinning the blame on a West German exile.

The KGB operation has limited success: the coming Soviet attack on Germany 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 countries, notably Greece and Japan, are convinced that this is a “German-Russian disagreement” that they refuse to be involved in. Thus, the Soviets have a quiet Pacific theater, and remove the 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 early in 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 tactical fighters, but this advantage is short-lived. Germany becomes the epicenter of the conflict; here, NATO forces slowly give ground 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 the NATO air station at Keflavík. 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 SSBN fleet, freeing their SSN force. 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 Backfire 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 matériel. 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 Russian 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 Maneuver Group) forces start to deploy, NATO looks to lose hold on all of Germany east of the Weser.

When a brilliantly timed naval attack on Russian 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 breakthrough, which 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 (under heavy “medication”) reveals to the NATO forces why the war was started: oil. The NATO forces immediately re-evaluate their bombing tactics over the front and start blowing up every fuel depot they can find (which had been widely spaced and smaller than usual); 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.

Eventually, General Alekseyev recognizes this suicidal madness for what it is, and 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. A cease-fire is sought by the Soviets and accepted by an exhausted NATO, and the aftermath of the war is left unwritten. The reader learns that NATO plans to revive the Nuremberg tribunal and wants the Politburo survivors tried for war crimes. The Soviets also want to try them, presumably for treason or a related crime.

Characters in "Red Storm Rising"

* General-Colonel Pavel Leonidovich Alekseyev, SA – first 2IC-Southwest and later Commander in Chief, Western Theater
* Commander Edward Morris, USN – Commanding officer, USS "Pharris", later USS "Reuben James"
* Commander Daniel X. McCafferty, USN – Commanding officer, USS "Chicago"
* Sergeant First Class Terry Mackall, USA – tank commander on the German front. Promoted to 2LT during the course of the war.
* Mikhail Eduardovich Sergetov – Candidate (nonvoting) Member of the Soviet Politburo and Energy Minister.
* Lieutenant Commander Robert A. Toland, III., USN-R – NSA analyst. Promoted to commander just prior to the outbreak of war.
* First Lieutenant Michael D. Edwards, USAF – Meteorological officer, Keflavík Air Base, American partisan on Iceland
* Captain Ivan Mikhailovich Sergetov, SA – Alekseyev's "aide-de-camp" and Sergetov's son. Promoted to major during the war.
* Major Amelia “Buns” Nakamura, USAF – A F-15C pilot who becomes the first American female ace pilot by shooting down three Tu-16 Badger bombers and, using ASM-135 antisatellite missiles to destroy two Soviet ocean reconnaissance satellites.

Major themes

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 2003 invasion of Iraq, 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 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 portable SAMs, and due to the Russians' perception of its profile, from an angle, as similar to that of the Russian Orthodox crucifix. 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 and British Paras during their amphibious landing and air assault. The effective 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 US Navy SEALS and Army Rangers. The only special forces group mentioned is the Soviet Spetsnaz, German GSG-9 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, or even on the Kola Peninsula itself. 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 NAS Keflavik, Iceland, and the surrounding area, were extremely accurate.


When Clancy and Larry Bond were writing the book, they gamed out the naval combat using Larry's Harpoon (boardgame) three times in Larry's basement. The after action reports were then reviewed and the narrative was written as you see it now.

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". [cite web|url=| title=Origins Award Winners (1989)| publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design| accessdate=2007-10-29]

In December 1988, MicroProse released a computer game by the same name.

In 1987-1989 Spectrum HoloByte, later Three-Sixty Pacific computerized the Harpoon (boardgame) as Harpoon (computer game). The project was led by Don Gilman and then Gordon Walton. The game series (there are 3 products) are still in production as of 2008 by Matrix Games.


External links

*bgg|3707|"Red Storm Rising"

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