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Literature / Red Storm Rising

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Red Storm Rising is an 1986 Doorstopper of a novel (830 pages). It is one of Tom Clancy's most famous works and is apparently on the syllabus of several military academies.

Co-written with Larry Bond (creator of the Harpoon game series, which Clancy had used for The Hunt for Red October), this novel tells the story of a conventional World War III between the Warsaw Pact and NATO in the late 1980s.

When a Soviet petro-chemical plant is destroyed by Islamist terrorists, the USSR realises it's seriously short of oil. So they decide to invade the Persian Gulf. To do that, they need to deal with NATO. They do this via launching an invasion of Western Europe, which they justify on the basis of a False Flag Operation to bomb the Kremlin and blame it on West Germany.

The war starts and the novel focuses on some of the people in the war. There are plenty of characters, the main ones including:

  • 1st Lieutenant Michael Edwards, USAF — a meteorologist on Iceland when it's captured by Soviet forces. He spends most of the novel with a ragtag group of Marines in hiding and monitoring Soviet movements.
  • Commander Daniel X. McCafferty, USN — Captain of the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Chicago.
  • Commander Edward Morris, USN — Commander of two USN antisubmarine frigates. Gets to see the Second Battle of the North Atlantic from the 'getting shot at' end (hence two frigates: USS Pharris to begin with before it ends up becoming an essential write-off, then USS Reuben James).
  • Lieutenant Commander Robert Toland, USNR — Naval Reserve intelligence officer who starts putting together the picture of Soviet intentions, before the start of the conflict (and gets a Field Promotion for it). Gets to see the Second Battle of the North Atlantic from the same end as Morris — he's injured when he's thrown across Nimitz's CIC when the ship is hit by two "Kingfish" missiles.
  • General-Colonel Pavel Leonidovich Alekseyev, SA — The main viewpoint character from the Soviet side. Starts out as Deputy CINC-Southwest, ends up as CINC-West.
  • Mikhail Eduardovich Sergetov — Candidate (nonvoting) Member of the Soviet Politburo and Energy Minister. Another of the major Soviet characters and mainly provides a point-of-view from the Soviet political side.
  • Captain Ivan Mikhailovich Sergetov, SA — Mikhail Eduardovich's son and Alekseyev's aide-de-camp. Starts the series as a Red Army captain and receives a Field Promotion to major.

It's not 100% accurate, with Bond and Clancy making some alterations to the scenario to stop the thing turning into a nuke-fest; e.g., the Soviets deciding not to use chemical weapons, which NATO would have interpreted as a license to go nuclear; and also having the Soviets place their boomers in their territorial seas to free up their submarines for anti-convoy missions (there was a dispute among Western analysts as to the point of the Soviet sub fleet, so they chose one of the two options).

Somewhat uniquely among Clancy's work we aren't really supposed to be taking sides. Certainly the Communist government is pretty evil, but mostly outside them and definitely all the actual soldiers are shown to be equally heroic and just doing their jobs. It makes for an odd read as the same events are told through opposing view points but makes for a much more effective look at war. No-one's evil and no-one's driven by hatred or vengeance, people are just following orders and doing their jobs... except the KGB, which is pretty much rotten to the core.

The book was made into a submarine simulation game by Sid Meier and MicroProse in 1988. In more recent years, a fan made it into a free campaign for the naval game Dangerous Waters. Sonalysts liked it so much they put it on an extras disc in the European edition. Another fan-made campaign was also made for Ghost Recon in 2010. A spiritual successor to the MicroProse game, called Cold Waters, has been developed by Killerfish Games.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Ace Pilot: USAF Major Amelia Nakamura, who shoots down three Soviet bombers and two Soviet recon satellites to earn her "Ace" status.
  • Achilles' Heel: the entire Soviet Army has one in its fuel shortage. It's not really a factor until the retaking of Iceland and the capture of Major Chapeyev, which is when the Americans learn about it. After that NATO's air strategy changes accordingly.
  • Action Girl: Maj. Nakamura, see Ace Pilot.
  • Aggressive Play Incentive: The game starts off with the Warsaw Pact having the upper hand, so if the player just watches the map, they'll see the red territory creeping further and further. Turning the tide requires sweeping the open seas to hunt down and destroy your mission objectives — and if you take too long, you fail to stop them from completing their own missions, and they gain an even bigger advantage. It's eventually possible to take it easier once the war has tilted far enough in NATO's favour and the borders start creeping back the other way (although you do still need to keep some momentum).
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • For a politically motivated General Failure, CINC-West dies "a soldier's death," shooting at the American bombers that end up killing him, with a machine-gun.
    • His successor, the former CINC-Southwest and Alekseyev's boss, is given a poignant parting when his plans are ruined and he faces arrest by the KGB, and the last Alekseyev sees of him is his empty holster as he leaves the command tent. Kosov reveals that he was executed.
  • Anti-Villain: Any of the Soviet characters. Most notably, Mikhail Sergetov, who is at the very least a fellow traveler in the Politburo's war crimes. Until his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Anyone Can Die: while none of the main characters die, let's face it: you really didn't expect most of Edward's squad or both the Boston and the Providence to buy it, did you?
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Toward the end of the book, Mikhail Sergetov blows his stack at the obstinacy of the Politboro dismissing what he's been telling them, which he learned from his son, who is serving at the front and after giving them a The Reason You Suck speech, asks where their sons are: "Where are the Communists here?"
  • Artistic License – Military: Averted in many respects, but certain aspects of the Soviet strategy (e.g., invading Iceland, declining use of chemical weapons due to East German opposition) were more or less contrived for plot reasons. Still, compared to many other techno-thrillers, this one tried hard to be accurate.
    • The F-19 Ghost Rider, a super-capable American stealth fighter, is the major technological break from reality. It's a sort of exaggerated expy of the contemporary F-117 Nighthawk, which could not be accurately depicted due to the details about it being heavily classified at the time.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: "Rules of Engagement — Option Bravo," which means conventional weapons only, much to Morris' relief. Later on, an EW officer calls "Plan Delta" for a heavy Soviet bomber strike supported by jammers. Obviously Truth in Television, as this is how real militaries work.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Toland, in spades. He gets a Field Promotion and the attention and gratitude of several flag officers for his analytical abilities. Even before the war starts, Toland is able to piece together several seemingly-unrelated trends in the Soviet Union, namely:
    • A massive shortage of car and truck batteries in the Soviet Union, despite their largest battery factory operating 24 hours a day note 
    • Several colonels are shot for falsifying readiness reports, and several conscripts are similarly shot for insubordination or disobedience note 
    • A number of formerly collectivized farms are having the amounts of farmland given to individual farmers doubled note 
...and from these trends is able to conclude that the Soviet Union is gearing up for war.
  • Badass Army:
    • You do not want to be on the receiving end of an attack by either a Soviet Category A formation or an Operational Maneuvre Group.
    • Supreme Allied Forces Europe is one on its own, but special mention has to go to the Germans:
    Did Germans get rattled? Even at the gates of Berlin, were the Germans ever rattled?
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Michael Edwards is a weather analyst who manages to impress even crack British Royal Marines. Subverted a bit in that Edwards runs marathons as a hobby, and so is far more athletic than most.
    • Bob Toland, who works out why Russia started the war, and who survived the attack on the Carrier group.
    • Ivan Sergetov, who starts off as "a young man with all [in this context, that means none] of the answers" fresh out of the Frunze Academy. Germany turns him into a real man.
  • Badass Longcoat: The KGB colonel who set the Kremlin bomb wears one. He keeps a silenced automatic underneath it, which he later uses to kill several elite Russian soldiers.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: With an attack helicopter's machine gun, no less. Edwards and his group come close to being spotted by a Soviet Hind gunship, and are particularly frightened when it fires a short burst... which impacts nowhere near them. A subsequent pararaph from the point of view of the chopper's crew reveals they were hunting for deer meat.
  • Berserk Button: Michael Edwards' old girlfriend was raped and killed. This fact is used by Mission Control to verify his identity, and later causes him to personally execute three Russian soldiers after witnessing their rape of an Icelandic woman. (It also impresses his fellow soldiers no end.)
  • Big Damn Heroes: Inverted with McCafferty, when, during his attack on Kirov, a Norwegian submarine attacks the battle group and screws up his approach. Chicago is then forced to make an impromptu Harpoon attack on the battle group and quickly withdraw before seeing if their Harpoons hit anything. Several chapters later, he meets the Norwegian captain in a bar, who gratefully thanks him for saving his boat, since the Harpoons ended up hitting two destroyers that were about to sink his submarine, sinking one of them.
  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Vice Admiral Richard Pipes is described as "the first black submariner to make three-star rank, a man who had paid his dues with performance as he'd climbed up the ladder in what had traditionally been a whites-only profession."
  • Brutal Honesty: When the Soviet paratrooper general on Iceland surrenders his forces, he asks how he knows for sure the Americans will uphold the laws of war regarding prisoners. The American Marine general bluntly tells him "You don't."
  • The Captain: Several:
    • Morris, of the USS Pharris
    • McCafferty, of the USS Chicago
    • And probably the best example of all: the Captain of the MV Julius Fucik, who survives through 20mm cannon rounds to bring his cargo of paratroopers to Rekyavik.
  • The Cavalry:
    • Played straight during the Live-Action Escort Mission sequence for the Chicago. The Alfa-class submarine has managed to sneak up on and sink both the Boston and the Providence, and has proven itself able to outrun the American Mark 48 torpedo. Chicago is left all alone against a superior opponent — and then HMS Torbay, which had heard the whole commotion, launches an ambush with the new-generation Spearfish torps.
    • Marine support from the fleet sent to recapture Iceland shows up barely in time to rescue Edwards' team from Soviet troops. As it is, most of them die.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. French forces don't appear very much, but when they do, they kick ass. The French aircraft carrier Foch accompanies the U.S. Navy task force to Iceland and, even though she's sunk, her fighters are the only ones to score any kills against the Russian bombers that ravage the fleet.
  • Chekhov's Gun: While the fact that the Soviets are out of fuel is the casus belli, it quickly fades into the background once the shooting starts—until American Intelligence makes a spectacularly lucky catch with Major Chapayev, the son of a Politburo member. Then the Americans make sure that the fuel shortage returns to haunt the Soviets with a vengeance.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Airborne Captain at the memorial service initially just appeared to be background colour. Director Kosov made the same mistake.
  • Colonel Badass:
    • The unnamed Soviet colonel in charge of the attack on Bieben, who became the de facto divisional commander after his general was killed. Competent, aggressive, not afraid to speak his mind, he is last seen giving orders to his division after casually surviving an artillery barrage.
    • The also unnamed KGB colonel who sets the Kremlin bomb. He turns up in a later scene after killing every guard on the same floor of the Kremlin building as him.
  • Cool Boat:
    • The portrayal of USS Reuben James and USS Chicago are pretty damn awesome.
    • On the Soviet side, special mention must be made of the Julius Fucik, the civilian merchantman transporting the Airborne Division detailed to capture Iceland. The Fucik manages to survive a missile hit and an American air attack, and still completes its mission.
    • HMS Torbay, which yanks USS Chicago out of the fire after the Soviets destroy Boston and Providence.
  • Cool Plane: The F-19 Ghostrider stealth fighter, which ended up getting a model made of it as people thought it was real. In fact the design of the aircraft was actually too complex for the Real Life computers at the time to design.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: The fire that indirectly kicked off the war might have been containable before it wrecked the entire facility, if it wasn't for the fact that the local party chieftain had diverted the funds and resources allocated to building an upgraded fire station in a location more convenient to the refinery so that he could erect vacation dachas for himself and his friends on the river. As a result, the firefighters arrived late, after the flames had spread too far. Sergetov had the parties responsible arrested the moment he learned about this, and they were convicted and executed for peculation off-page.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: When the oil crisis is revealed near the novel's end, an American laments that the whole war could have been avoided if the Soviet had just asked for help as the West would have been happy to give aid. Which is a bit idealistic, given that this is the Cold War. Aside from revealing their own weakness to their mortal enemies, the Soviet leadership expected that oil aid to come with major strings attached. In fact, SACEUR admits that NATO would have demanded some concessions in exchange for the aid, but they still would have been a lot less painful to both sides than the war was.
  • Covert Distress Code: Edwards is given one by Mission Control once they've verified his identity - if he tells them things are "Going great," then he's been captured and things are anything but.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Several.
    • The attack on USS Nimitz's carrier group involves the U.S. Navy getting owned by Soviet Naval Aviation.
    • Operation Polar Glory involves the Allied forces on Iceland getting owned by the Soviets.
    • During Sergetov's coup, the Taman Guards and the MVD get destroyed by the Soviet paratroops and the KGB forces.
    • The flights of the Frisbee smash the initial Soviet attack in hours.
    • The retaking of Iceland after Soviet supply lines were cut was fairly easy for NATO forces, even in the face of one last Soviet anti-shipping missile attack.
  • Defcon 5: Whilst Clancy avoids the common trap of stating that Defcon Five is the highest state of alert, he makes the mistake in reverse with the British "Queen's Order" system. The book is set in the 1980s, but the Queen's Order system was abolished in 1970. If the UK was in transition to war at some point during the 1980s, then it would be at either BIKINI Alert State: AMBER or BIKINI Alert State: RED. (The word BIKINI was randomly selected by a computer.)
  • Defensive Feint Trap: employed by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and their German Panzergrenadier counterparts in phase two of the defense of Bieben. The Germans let the Soviets overextend themselves, swing around, then execute a three-sided trap with the defiladed American tanks.
  • The Determinator:
    • The captain of the merchant vessel Julius Fucik, which is used by the Soviets to sneak troops into Iceland, valiantly stays at his post to guide the ship into harbor. Then his ship gets strafed by an F-15. So, does the Cap let 20mm cannon wounds stop him: HELL NO!
    • Alekseyev and Ivan Sergetov, especially after they get shot down.
  • The Dreaded: The Bundeswehr. Even before the fighting starts, the Soviets are terrified of them, and that reputation only increases. Slaughtering forty million Soviet citizens would tend to give one that reputation, even if the Deutsches Heer have cast off the trappings of Nazism. Indeed, Alekseyev's private monologues reveal that he considers the Fritzes to be his greatest threat:
    Did Germans get rattled? Even at the gates of Berlin, were the Germans ever rattled?
    • Also, the A-10 Thunderbolt close air support attack aircraft. Designed to be a tank killer, with a 30mm cannon that fires 4000 bowling-pin sized depleted uranium shells per minute, it's made perfectly clear that the Soviet tank crews are scared shitless of it.
    Soviet General: I have seen just one of those planes go through a column of tanks like a harvester through a field of wheat.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. A major part of the book is the Soviet's efforts to cut Europe off from North America to keep supply convoys from coming in, and NATO's efforts to prevent that from happening. Also, once NATO learns of Russia's petroleum shortages, they move fuel depots and convoys to the top of the bombing priority list and the invasion grinds to a halt in a matter of days.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Major Nakamura's callsign is "Buns", given to her after her fellow pilots learned of her childhood nickname, "Bunny".
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe, twice.
    • A big reason why the Soviet strategy fails is that every large-scale troop movement has to be approved by their high command (STAVKA) in Moscow. In theory, this means the Soviets can coordinate huge, sweeping attacks against gaps in the Allied lines; in practice, those gaps appear and disappear at a moment's notice due to the sheer speed of mechanized warfare (the constant air attacks against Soviet communications centers don't help, either). As Alekseyev repeatedly fumes, on multiple occasions he could've brought about a decisive victory if STAVKA had allowed him to mobilize the strategic reserves on his own initiative, instead of having to wait several hours for approval.
    • Ironically, following the above case, in the next battle, lack of healthy Meddling permitted a hot-headed regimental commander to redirect artillery that should have been above his authority level, causing the loss of much needed bridges and ending the best chance of a Soviet breakout.
  • Expy: Clancy didn't want WWIII in the Ryanverse, so he replaced CIA analyst Jack Ryan with NSA Analyst Bob Toland. Note that Cornelius Ryan was a historian who wrote several famous histories of World War II, such as The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far, while John Toland was a historian who wrote a famous biography of Adolf Hitler.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Vidgis kisses Edwards to pretend to be a local couple when a Soviet helicopter appears.
  • False Flag Operation: Used by the Soviets to create a casus belli; they bomb the Kremlin and blame it on West Germany.
  • Field Promotion/You Are in Command Now: This is played remarkably frequently on the Soviet side, as NATO doctrine is to target the officers and commanders first, in order to throw the men into disarray.
    • When Alekseyev first arrives at the front, the first commanding officer he meets is a colonel who's taken over command of his division after its general was killed. Making matters worse, his regiments are commanded by majors, and his battalions by captains, both of which are generally considered far too junior for those respective commands.
    • A series of these takes Alekseyev from an (admittedly senior) aide all the way to CINC-West and effective leader of the whole Soviet war effort.
    • On the NATO side there's Sergeant First Class Terry Mackall, who manages to get this twice. The first time is to commander of his tank platoon when the lieutenant commanding was killed on the second day of the war by a one-in-a-million artillery shell that landed right on top of his tank. The second is to XO of the troop (and with it the rank of lieutenant) when that commander was killed during a Soviet advance. It happens so quickly that it takes a while for it to register, and he still wears his sergeant's stripes for some time after said promotion since he can't find the time to change.
    • Alekseyev also temporarily inverts the trope by taking a step downwards from Deputy CINC-West to division commander of the 20th Tanks after its commander was killed in an airstrike. His boss was not happy about this, since Alekseyev was much too competent and too irreplaceable as a theatre commander to "run around and play divisional commander".
  • Four-Star Badass: Pavel Alekseyev, with a double bonus in that his rank actually is four-star.
    • SACEUR too. Despite dealing with supply shortages, fewer troops than the Russians, and barely having time to eat, he still manages to not only halt the Russian advance, but actually turn it back.
  • Friendly Enemy: After Ellington is shot down, he begins to make his way back to friendly lines. Unbeknownst to him, NATO and the Warsaw Pact have enacted a cease-fire. When he is discovered by a Soviet patrol, instead of detaining him the Soviets embrace him and point him in the right direction to rendezvous with his allies.
  • Geo Effects: Special notice goes to a rare seaborne use of them during the retaking of Iceland. The NATO amphibious fleet positions itself in a rocky harbor, which makes navigation very difficult. The upside reveals itself once the Soviet bombers launch their dreaded Macross Missile Massacre strategy: the missiles are designed for use in the open ocean and home in on the largest radar/infrared signatures they can detect. In the rocky harbor, those belong not to ships but to volcanic mini-islands, causing most of the AS-4s to miss their targets.
  • General Failure: Not particularly extreme, but both the old CINC-West on the Soviet side and Admiral Baker on the NATO side are far too complacent to be successful military leaders. CINC-West is killed in an American air raid right after he relieves one of his sub-commanders for failing at his job, and Baker does not survive the attack on the Nimitz after his own complacency allows him to be lured into the Soviet trap. Their successors do a much better job.
  • General Ripper: The Soviet minister of defense, whose paranoia about NATO is explicitly called out by other members of the Politburo and who later convinces the General Secretary to start using tactical nukes when the German front stalls.
  • Germanic Efficiency: While all the Allied armies are presented as doing their part, the Russians are particularly impressed with the Bundeswehr's contribution and ability to reform and counterattack even after devastating blows, noting that their discipline and organization still holds up since their last war two generations ago.
  • The Ghost: KGB Director Kosov's assistant, whose ambition apparently helped kick off the war, as he gave the Politburo the best case scenario for the war rather than the usual middle case. Then again, considering it's Kosov, he might have been lying and trying to shift the blame onto his unseen assistant.
  • Government Conspiracy: 90% of what the Politburo does 'on screen'.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ed Morris has a protracted breakdown after the Pharris is torpedoed. It gets to the point where the helicopter pilot on his new boat has to get him hammered in a bar so he can come to term with what happened and get over his guilt.
  • Home by Christmas: The Politboro believes this of the war to break NATO, mainly because the KGB man who briefed them gave them the best case scenario briefing when he realized that this was what they wanted to hear.
  • Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: And how. At a minimum, dozens of submarines are sunk within the context of the writing. Given that action was taking place in other venues, it would not be surprising if the total number exceeded 100.
  • How Much More Can He Take?: The captain of HMS Battleaxe is very surprised when a Soviet "Oscar"-class missile sub winds up taking three lightweight torpedo hits — and still manages to come to the surface in order to surrender. Justified, because the "Oscar"s are some of the biggest, toughest submarines ever made, complete with double hulls, and ASW torpedoes have relatively small warheads.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: General-Lieutenant Viktor Beregovoy is one to Alekseyev, whilst Alekseyev himself is one to CINC-South West.
  • Insistent Terminology: When viewing the alleged confession of the man accused of bombing the Kremlin, Toland notes that the man referred to himself as a "spy", something no intelligence operative would ever do willingly.
    Toland: You don't say that. You call yourself an 'officer.' An 'agent' is a foreigner who works for you, and a 'spy' is a bad guy.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Played straight with Royal Marine Sergeant Nichols, who chafes being under the command of Air Force Lieutenant Edwards for the entire time he's on Iceland. Justified in that Nichols is a trained special operations soldier and Edwards is a meteorologist, albeit one who's already had quite a bit of on-the-job training.
  • Ironic Echo Cut:
    • Terry Mackall grumbles about the bad weather, saying something along the lines of "The Russians must love this shit, our A-10s have a bare five seconds to attack before they have to pull back." In the next section, comes the Russian perspective: "Even the Goddamned weather in on the Americans' side — their planes come swooping in too low for our radar to warn us!"
    • And happens again after that particular attack, the Russians note that, "We can't make that kind of mistake very often and expect to succeed." and Mackall says, "We can't survive much more of what the Russians are throwing at us."
  • It's All My Fault: After Ed Morris allows a Victor to close in and torpedo Pharris, killing over a dozen of his crew including his executive officer, he continues to blame himself and have nightmares for weeks to come afterward. He's even taunted by his vanity license plate, carrying his failure around with him. It takes a considerable talking to by O'Malley after assuming command of Reuben James to sort him out.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: more accurately, the "it's successful ... too successful" variation, for the Americans during the first battle between the Nimitz and the "Backfires." Initially, the Russian bombers attack straight and dumb, and the defending fighters take them apart with ease, causing Toland to worry since the Russians are being just a little too stupid. It turns out he's right. The "bombers" are actually decoy drones to lure the American fighters out of position, and things get noisy very quickly once the real Soviet bombers show up, well within missile-launching range, from the other direction.
  • It's Raining Men: Royal Marine commandos parachute onto Iceland to assist Edwards. It doesn't go well: crosswinds, rocks, and parachutes don't mix, resulting in the unit's commanding officer being killed, and Nichols spraining an ankle, both due to bad landings on rocks.
  • Kill Sat: The Soviets have a sat killer that destroys U.S. reconnaissance satellites. The Americans, in an inversion, return the favor with an F-15 that launches air-to-orbit ASM-135 anti-satellite missiles.
  • Little Hero, Big War: Every character. It's World War III, after all. Special mention goes to U.S. Air Force Lt. Mike Edwards, a meteorologist who escapes the Macross Missile Massacre of his air base at Keflavik, Iceland. After escaping, he leads a ragtag band of Marines across the island, directed by Mission Control on his handily acquired satellite radio to scout out Russian troop movements and assist in making sure the landing zone for a beachhead is relatively unguarded.
  • Live-Action Escort Mission: after Operation Doolittle runs into a bit of trouble. On a broader scale, the Atlantic convoys in general: shepherd the slow, fat, vulnerable merchies to Europe against Soviet submarines and bombers.
  • Look Both Ways: nonfatal example. A Spetznaz major, who is too busy grousing about his KGB superiors to check German traffic, steps right in front of a Peugeot, sending himself and a briefcase of important tactical information right to the Germans. As a result, NATO gets early warning of the attack and many of the remaining Spetznaz raiders are intercepted.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: A major part of the Soviet strategy to eliminate U.S. fleets and bases, used most prominently against Iceland and the Nimitz battlegroup. The Backfire bomber squadrons operating in the North Atlantic continue to wreak havoc on NATO shipping for much of the war. Clancy describes it eloquently:
    Aegis was state of the art, the best SAM system yet devised, but it had one major weakness: Ticonote  carried only ninety-six SM-2 surface-to-air missiles; there were one hundred forty incoming Kingfishnote . The computer had not been programmed to think about that.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Edwards and his Marines execute the Soviet patrol they encounter in mid-rape. They try to make it look like the group drunkenly drove off a cliff, causing their vehicle to catch fire. The investigating Soviets quickly see through the ruse as one of the bodies was thrown from the jeep, allowing them to identify a knife wound in his chest. The rest, though, went up with the vehicle along with its fuel and the grenades that subsequently cooked off in the flames.
  • Military Coup: Dissatisfied Soviet officers eventually launch one to shut down World War III before it goes nuclear, after their attempt to conquer Europe with conventional weapons has failed. It is portrayed fairly realisticallly, with an emphasis on controlling nodes of communications in the capital.
  • Misguided Missile:
    • Inverted, in the Backfire raid at the start of the conflict. It's Soviet target training missiles that decoy U.S. Navy aircraft away from their carrier group, instead of aircraft leading away missiles.
    • Also played straight later in the war, when the anti-sub helicopters of HMS Battleaxe and USS Reuben James play "decoy" to lure away anti-ship missiles from their respective ships, after it was determined that the Soviets were focusing on the escorts to make the job easier for other Soviet forces to get at the convoys the escorts were defending.
    • During the landing operation on Iceland, NATO ships sail between small volcanic islands on their way in. Because the enemy missiles are heat-seeking, they lock onto the volcanoes instead of the ships.
  • Mission Control: A resurrected Special Operations Executive serves as one for Edwards and his group. Toland, being an intelligence officer, and some of the higher ranking officers will occasionally behave as such.
  • Mundane Utility: On Iceland, a patrolling Soviet helicopter crew use their nose-mounted machine gun... to hunt deer.
  • My Greatest Failure: Commander Morris views the heavy damage to the USS Pharris and loss of several of his crew to be this. It doesn't help that his car's license plates read FF-1094,note  providing a near constant reminder of his former command while he waits for reassignment.
    Morris walked to his car and was mocked by the license plate, FF-1094. Not every man got to carry his failure around with him.
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes: Justified, since every plan that works once will presumably be neutralized by different tactics on the opposition's part.
    • For instance, the Soviet decoy drones that worked so well against the Nimitz battle group are not deployed against the Independence later on, since this time the Tomcats make sure to close to within camera range (still a good fifty-plus miles) before firing off their missiles, thus making sure that their targets are bombers and not decoys.
    • Also discussed by the American Tomcat pilots defending British airfields against bomber raids: after they take a beating from long-ranged MiG-23s with heavy jamming support, the pilots determine that next time, they'll have missiles pre-configured to take out the jammers. "They learn, we learn."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The heads of state of either the Soviet Union or the United States are never directly named, though it is clear that the new Russian leader was an expy of Mikhail Gorbachev, who had only been in office for a year or so when the book was published.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Providence is damaged by a patrol frigate, so Chicago and Boston offer to escort her to safety. Subverted when Boston and Providence both don't make it, and Chicago just barely escapes with timely help from the British.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Michael Edwards to a "T," and Alekseyev's a pretty nice guy too.
  • Oh, Crap!: Alekseyev realizes the Politburo has completely lost it when they not only decide to start using tactical nukes but also give him battlefield control of them. This is virtually unheard of in the Soviet military because of how centralized the Russian nuclear arsenal is and giving him, a regular joe on the front lines, command of them is a sign of how desperate they've become.
  • Old Soldier: one of the most sympathetic Soviet Politburo members is Pyotr Bromkovskiy, who is a survivor of the Second World War. Prophetically, he denounces the whole war as madness, and is among the first to push for peace after the nuclear scare — perhaps the closest that the Politburo has come to nuclear war.
  • Old-School Dogfight: As part of an aerial Last Stand by the Soviets on Iceland when the NATO fleet arrives, the remaining seven MiG-29s manage to jump a squadron of F-18s just as the Hornets are done dropping bombs. The problem is, the MiG-29 and the F-18 look rather similar, especially at standard air combat distances. Since neither side wanted to fire on a friendly target, the result was a cannon duel at extremely close range as both sides tried to identify their targets visually. The SAMs firing more or less at random did not help.
  • Past Experience Nightmare:
    • Morris must deal with the psychological aftermath of Pharris getting nearly sunk by a Soviet sub, including nightmares about his executive officer being decapitated by shrapnel.
    • Vigdis is shown suffering from nightmares as well after being raped by Soviet soldiers.
  • Post-Injury Desk Job: USMC Colonel Chuck Lowe has a desk job in intelligence after he broke his leg while skiing.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The fate of USS Pharris - having its bow ripped off and lost, while the rest of the hull remains afloat to be towed back to port - seems implausible at best. However, at least two World War II-era destroyers were involved in similar incidents: USS Murphy losing its bow in a collision, and USS Abner Read losing its stern to a mine. Both ships were towed back for repairs and ultimately returned to action.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Minister Sergetov challenges the Defense Minister’s plan to replace the entire Western Theater command staff for failing to defeat NATO note , Defense accuses him of simply trying to protect his son, who is on CINC-West’s staff. Sergetov does not take kindly to that suggestion and verbally eviscerates him in front of the entire Politburo.
    Sergetov: "Just because my son", you say. My son is at the front, serving the State. He’s been wounded, and barely escaped death when he was shot down at his general’s side. Who else at this table can say that, Comrades? Where are your sons? [quietly] Where are the Communists here?
  • Red Baron: The A-10, an aircraft that causes no end of problems for the Soviet's armored advance, is referred to by them as the Devil's Cross, in part because of a resemblance to a Russian Orthodox cross.
  • Redemption Equals Death: General Failure CINC-West dies heroically.
  • Reporting Names: Loads of them. When one guy on USS Pharris (an anti-submarine Knox-class frigate) calls out "Down Beats!" you might end up getting confused unless you realise that "Down Beat" is the NATO designation for the look-down radar on the Tu-22M "Backfire".
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When the bodies of the patrol ambushed by Edwards and the Marines are discovered, one Soviet Army officer makes a fairly accurate guess as to what happened - the patrol was harrassing the locals, only to be ambushed by an unknown party. The KGB officer present, unwilling to admit one of his own mennote  could be so undisciplined, claims the locals were instead killed by the same "unknown party" that ambushed the patrol... but correctly deduces said party to be escaped American troops.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: Lt. Edwards, originally stationed in Iceland as a weatherman, leads a group of U.S. Marines across the island and ultimately provide vital information that lets NATO forces retake Iceland, along the way also taking out a Soviet patrol that were raiding a civilian farm. Prior to this, his best claim to martial fame being that he's a marathon runner.
  • Sea Mine: A Royal Navy submarine's loss is hypothesized to be due to a decoy for a Soviet submarine being planted in the middle of a minefield.
  • Shoot the Dog: The target of the False Flag Operation is a group of children that were visiting as part of a field trip.
  • Shown Their Work: A staple of Clancy's writings in general. His research on Iceland and its geography is highly accurate, and in a broader sense the entire book shows off Clancy and Bond's encyclopaedic knowledge of military hardware and strategy.
  • Smug Snake: Director Kosov of the KGB, who regards the disastrous way the war plays out as the ideal leverage to dispose of his treacherous assistant (who helped start the war in the first place) and remains convinced of his own untouchability to the end.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • The Peugeot car that hits a Spetznaz major in Germany. Without this accident, NATO would have been caught unguarded, and the other Spetznaz would have been able to carry out their orders.
    • Ametist, a KGB anti-sub ship, managed to screw up the American plans pretty badly.
    • Another incident has the spanner in the works being an ally. USS Chicago had a perfect attack solution on the Soviet cruiser Kirov. Then a Norwegian sub that had been undetected by both the sub and the Soviets attacks the Kirov first, and the Soviet retaliation ends up focusing on the Chicago.
    • A patrol boat happens to be right over the submarine fleet during Operation Doolittle, and sees the missile launches. Their response damages one sub, forcing two others to slow to escort her home, complicating the extraction plan considerably.
    • For the Soviets: the heretofore successful advance on Alfeld by the 20th Tank Division, under the command of Alekseyev, is brought to a screeching halt when one of his regimental commanders calls in artillery on the withdrawing Allied forces in a fit of rage. Unfortunately, he didn't bother to specify what kind of artillery, so high-powered artillery rockets end up landing on the very bridges Alekseyev needed intact. The bridges collapse before Alekseyev could countermand the orders, and the resultant delays allow the Allies to dig in and contain the Soviet breakthrough once more.
    • The Major of Parachute Troops becomes a fatal one for Kosov.
  • Spiritual Successor: The Killerfish game Cold Waters has been explicitly described as a spiritual successor to the Red Storm Rising PC game.
  • Spy Ship: The "tuna trawlers" that NATO pushes into service upon the loss of the G-I-UK SOSUS line. They're essentially unarmed (it's noted that the only weapon they have aboard are harpoon guns for fending off sharks), but the mile-long sensor cables they trail are able to detect Soviet subs attempting to break into the Atlantic, allowing their attendant Orions to kill them.
  • Superweapon Suspense Subversion: In the preparations for Operation Doolittle, it's hinted that it may be a nuclear attack the subs are being readied for. The Tomahawk missiles' conventional warheads are said to be replaced with "something else," while a technician notes that unusual care is being taken in checking the missiles' guidance systems... guidance systems which, to his knowledge, are only used with nuclear warheads. It's not until the missiles are over their targets that the missiles' actual payloads are revealed: cluster bombs to destroy the Soviet aircraft wreaking havoc on the Atlantic convoys.
  • Surprise Vehicle: When Alekseyev and Sergetov had their helicopter shot down and were stuck on foot, they were about to cross a primitive forest road when they are surprised by a column of American M1 tanks participating in a counterattack. They noted that the American tank's engine design meant that they were quieter than other Main Battle Tanks, and as such when they are moving fast, you don't get much warning, a surprising factor in armored warfare.
  • Taking You with Me: In one scene on the German battlefield, the readers (and a Soviet general) are shown the end result of a NATO fighter that crashed into the anti-aircraft mount that shot it down.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Ellington near the end, when his F-19 is shot down. Also essentially the Iceland sequences for Edwards.
  • Trial by Friendly Fire:
    • Edwards' team requests a strafing run from the fighters that show up to rescue them, despite the Soviet troops being literally on top of their position.
    • And on the Soviet side, a constant problem for the ground-attack aircraft and the surface-to-air batteries that are supposed to support them. With only seconds to lock on and fire, missile units often have no chance to distinguish between friendly aircraft and NATO planes, a problem that frustrates Alekseyev no end.
    • An issue for both sides in the final attack to retake Iceland, as the F/A-18 Hornet and MiG-29 "Fulcrum" look remarkably similar, particularly in the middle of a giant furball.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Amelia, being an Asian woman combat pilot in the 1980s.
  • Uncertain Doom: The captain of the Julius Fucik gets badly wounded by a strafing run from some American F-15s, but refuses to seek medical attention until the ship docks. By the time he does, the paratrooper general notes there's little time left, but it's unclear whether the captain survived or not.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: throughout the book, the readers are shown tantalizing glimpses of "Operation Doolittle": a sub wolfpack sortieing into the Barents, lots of ELINT work by the Brits, F-14s working out flight plans. It's not until the Tomahawks hit the Backfire airfields on the Kola peninsula that we really figure out what it entails.
  • Vanity License Plate: Morris' car has the license plate FF-1094, the hull number of Pharris. This becomes an Ironic Echo after Pharris is crippled by a torpedo hit and several of the crew die.
  • Villain Protagonist: by definition, all of the Soviet POV characters. True, we're supposed to be rooting for NATO, but it's hard not to feel a thrill as Alekseyev's 20th Tank Division blasts its way into Alfeld.
  • Villainous Valor: The Soviets are shown as brave and capable fighting men, just as much as their NATO counterparts.
    • Particular mention goes to the captured Spetznaz field team, whose leader was drugged into revealing their mission and talked to save their lives. His second-in-command is initially aghast and tries to kill him with a grenade, only to change his mind when he realizes that he had no choice in the betrayal. Instead of grenading his commander he blows up his team's maps and plans, earning a "well done, Andrushka!" from his team leader.
    • Also, General Alekseyev's helicopter pilot late in the book. As he is taking a flight to survey the battlefields, the pilot repeatedly (and sarcastically) points out the danger in approaching too close to enemy forces. Alekseyev reminds himself that this pilot has already earned TWO Hero of the Soviet Union note  decorations for daring over the battlefield.
  • War Is Hell: there's one particular quiet scene where Alekseyev muses on this trope very, very bitterly.
  • War Hawk: The Politburo could have asked for the oil but instead chose to invade Europe. Of course, this would have harmed their negotiating position very badly, or even their legitimacy at home, but most of the leaders still seem to accept World War III as preferable to their own retirement...
    • They also don't seem to get that the worst result of negotiating for oil would still probably be better than the best result of a war.
  • Weapon Running Time: this works into both airborne and submarine attacks:
    • Aircraft use missiles as their long-range weapons (where "long range" is anything beyond 500 meters). However, as in real life, all air-to-air (and most air-to-ground) missiles have top speeds in the 500-600mph range. This is a particular problem for the F-14 with its very long range Phoenix missile: at long Phoenix range, the Tomcats must take every possible precaution against being detected, because the missiles take so long to reach their target that a forewarned target will be able to dodge, duck, or decoy the missiles and escape.
    • Submarines use both missiles and torpedoes, and both have the same problem: limited fuel, which means limited range. Torpedoes also have top speeds between fifty and seventy knots, while the submarines have top speeds ranging from twenty to forty knots. This means that under certain circumstances the submarine can outrun a pursuing torpedo. Even if the sub can't outrun a torpedo, it can use noisemakers and water conditions to dodge or fool the torpedo. A great deal of the skill in attacking an enemy sub comes from the need to get as close as possible before firing, so the target doesn't have time to employ any counter-tactics.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: One of the Marines protests when Edwards is about to summarily execute their Russian prisoners. However, he and everyone else quickly accepts that they wouldn't have been able to take the Russians with them anyway and there was no way they could leave living witnesses.
    • On the Soviet side, Minister Sergetov lays one on the Defense Minister and the rest of the Politburo when he asks them where THEIR sons are during his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Worthy Opponent: The ending conversation between General Alekseyev and SACEUR shows that both men hold each other in high regard. It helps that they're both professional soldiers who believe in the rules of war and simply want the conflict to be over.
  • You Are in Command Now: Lt. Edwards on Iceland, Cmdr. Toland aboard USS Nimitz. (Toland isn't actually in command, but the XO gives him the conn despite Toland being a reservist staff officer because he's there when he's needed.)
  • You Have Failed Me: The Politburo has a disturbing habit of purging military leadership anytime anything in the war goes badly. Usually followed by one or more Field Promotions. Sergetov eventually remarks that the Defense Minister is more effective at arresting his own generals than defeating NATO.
  • You Killed My Father: The death of a Soviet trooper's daughter in the False Flag Operation that was used as a causus belli was the cause of the eventual downfall of Director Kosov.
    "For my little Svetlana ... who died without a face."